Pope: 'Priests' only girlfriend is the Church'
Pope Francis, starting today a packed days of events culminating in Easter, delivered a sermon in which he asked priests for "a renewed faith in their only girlfriend, Church," reaffirming the importance of celibacy in the Catholic Church.
In the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica, Francis celebrated a Chrism mass during which he and priests renewed the vows they took on the day of their ordination and he blessed oils to be used in sacraments during the year.
At the mass, attended by some 10,000 people and accompanied by a pontifical choir, he delivered a sermon on the need for priests to live a simple, poor life.
He described the church as "a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom."
Holy Thursday commemorates the day on which Catholics believe Jesus founded the priesthood, at the Last Supper with his apostles before he was betrayed and arrested on the night before his crucifixion.
Later on Thursday, Francis was to travel to a rehabilitation centre on Rome's outskirts for a service in which he was to wash and kiss the feet of 12 sick and disabled people, in commemoration of Jesus' gesture of humility towards his apostles on the night before he died.
Previous popes always held the ceremony in the Vatican or Rome's St. John's Basilica and only included 12 Catholic men, usually priests, at the service. But Francis, continuing a tradition he started when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, holds it in peripheral neighborhoods with ordinary people.