Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai washes feet of Roomier inmates

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Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai washed the feet of 12 inmates during a Holy Thursday Mass held in Roumieh Prison, Lebanon's largest jail. Known for overcrowding and for its frequent uprisings, Roumieh has approximately 4,000 inmates. Twelve Christian prisoners were selected Thursday to represent the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, to reenact a scene described in the Bible’s Book of John. During his sermon, Rai urged the prisoners to draw lessons from Jesus, who fell three times while bearing the cross but rose stronger every time, because he was sure of God’s mercy and deep love towards him. Rai encouraged the convicts to spend their time behind bars repenting and meditating, in order to turn their punishment into a rebirth, and to cleanse themselves from sin. Bowing before each inmate, the 75-year-old patriarch washed, dried and kissed their feet. Some of the inmates, noticeably holding back tears, also grasped the hand of the cardinal after he had kissed their feet. Rai stressed the importance of preserving the dignity of each prisoner, and emphasized God’s love for each of them. He urged the inmates to hope that a better future will be waiting for them when they leave the prison. He also urged the pertinent ministries, the security services and the judiciary to take necessary measures to prevent the prison from turning into fertile ground for sectarian and partisan factions, and illicit substance abuse. Rai stressed the need for effective rehabilitation programs that would help convicts fit back into society. The feet-washing ritual commemorates Christ’s gesture of humility towards his apostles the night before he was crucified. Rai ended the ceremony by saying: “Seek from the sacrifice of Christ and from the feast of his body and blood, the grace that sanctifies you and strengthens you and strengthens your resolve.” Members of the security forces, priests, nuns and government and military officials also attended the service.

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