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Pope to wash feet of inmates at mafia ‘turncoat’ prison on Holy Thursday

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a person as he performs the traditional Washing of the feet in 2014 (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis will wash the feet of inmates at a prison known for housing mafia turncoats on Holy Thursday.

The Paliano prison, located in a huge fortress outside Rome, houses many of Italy’s “collaborators of justice,” who can shave time off their sentences by cooperating with anti-mafia investigators.

Given the security concerns involved, the Vatican said that the Mass at the maximum-security facility would be “strictly private.”

Francis has spoken out frequently to denounce the mafia, declaring mobsters “excommunicated” and urging them to change their ways.

Many mafia turncoats have done just that, risking their own lives and those of their families to help authorities fight the mob.

Pope Francis has previously washed the feet of women and Muslims on Holy Thursday. Last year he performed the ritual on would-be refugees.

Even before he became pope, the Argentine Jesuit paid particular attention to prison ministry and still stays in touch with a group of inmates in Buenos Aires.

Pope Francis has denounced the death penalty and solitary confinement and says inmates must be given hope and chances for rehabilitation.