Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees today, declaring them children of the same God, in a gesture of welcome and brotherhood at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has spiked following the Brussels attacks.
Francis denounced the carnage as a "gesture of war" carried out by blood-thirsty people beholden to the weapons industry during an Easter Week Mass with asylum-seekers at the shelter in Castelnuovo di Porto, outside Rome.
The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles before being crucified, and is meant as a gesture of service.
Francis contrasted that gesture with the "gesture of destruction" carried out by the Brussels attackers, saying they wanted to destroy the brotherhood of humanity represented by the migrants.
"We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace," Francis said in his homily, delivered off-the-cuff in the windy courtyard of the center.
Several of the migrants then wept as Francis knelt before them, poured holy water from a brass pitcher over their feet, wiped them clean and kissed them, foreign media reports.