Washing inmates’ feet is reminder they’re ‘not forgotten,’ archbishop says

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) –- In a Holy Thursday visit to the Orleans Justice Center, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond washed the feet of male and female inmates, telling them the ritual is to remind them they “are not forgotten” and that there “is nothing too great for God to forgive” if they ask for his mercy.

The archbishop of New Orleans celebrated a prayer service and, in washing the inmates’ feet, recreated when Jesus washed the feet of the 12 apostles at the Last Supper.

“Why do we do this? Because we believe in you and in your dignity as a daughter or son of God,” Archbishop Aymond told the inmates April 14 about the foot washing. “We want to remind you that you are not forgotten. Also we want to wash your feet to remind you, my sisters and brothers, that there is nothing too great for God to forgive.”

“You know sometimes we think to ourselves, ‘I did this or that, I hurt this person. God could never forgive me,’” he said. “And what does God say? ‘Shhhh, don’t say that.’ Because there is nothing too great for God to forgive if we ask for his mercy.”

In 2016, Archbishop Aymond was the main celebrant at a Stations of the Cross service at the center, which welcomed him back on Holy Thursday every year after that until 2020, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

The archbishop told the inmates that “by washing your feet, we hope to remind you that God is in love with you, the Lord Jesus lives within and there is nothing too great that God would not grant forgiveness if we ask. … You know as well as I do that we can’t change the past. It is what it is. but we can make a difference in the future. Amen.”

“Amen!” the inmates responded and broke into applause. Some began singing, and the lyrics of “This Little Light of Mine” filled the room where they were gathered.

“We are so pleased to have the archbishop return to bless our inmates in this time honored service during the Easter season,” Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman said in a statement ahead of the prelate’s visit.

“We consider it a blessing that he has chosen to be with incarcerated persons on Holy Thursday to exercise Jesus’ commandment that we should imitate his loving humility in the washing of the feet,” he said.

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Editor’s Note: A video of Archbishop Aymond’s visit at the Orleans Justice Center by the Clarion Herald, New Orleans archdiocesan newspaper, can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvFk5vg5dug.

Original Article