Pope Francis to celebrate mass in youth prison before Easter

VATICAN CITY, Holy See (AFP) - Pope Francis will celebrate a mass next week before Easter in a youth detention centre in Rome during which he will wash the feet of prisoners, the Vatican said in a statement on Thursday.

The Vatican said the Holy Thursday mass continued a tradition of the then Jorge Bergoglio when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and held masses in prisons, hospitals or old people's homes.

Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI also celebrated mass in the Casal del Marmo prison in north-west Rome in March 2007.

The washing of feet during mass on Holy Thursday is a tradition based on the belief that Jesus Christ washed the feet of his apostles before the Last Supper with them before his crucifixion.

The Vatican said Francis will also celebrate mass earlier on Holy Thursday in St Peter's Basilica.

The new pope, Latin America's first pontiff, has called for the Roman Catholic Church to be closer to ordinary people and has warned Catholic leaders to abandon the pursuit of worldly glories.

In Argentina, he became a strong voice on the side of the dispossessed during its devastating economic crisis and a fierce critic of the International Monetary Fund and unregulated free-market capitalism.