Pope Francis washes feet of elderly, disabled in pre-Easter ritual

ROME (AP) -- Pope Francis has washed the feet of 12 elderly and disabled people - women and non-Catholics among them - in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve like a "slave."

Francis' decision in 2013 to perform the Holy Thursday ritual on women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center just two weeks after his election helped define his rule-breaking papacy. It riled traditionalist Catholics, who pointed to the Vatican's own regulations that the ritual be performed only on men since Jesus' 12 apostles were men.

The 2014 edition brought Francis to a center for the elderly and disabled Thursday. Francis kneeled down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs.

He said the ritual is a gesture of "a slave's service."

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