Cardinal Cupich washes feet of Venezuelan refugees in Holy Thursday ritual: ‘It was divine.’

The Holy Week ritual that symbolizes humility and servitude was performed during Mass at Holy Name Cathedral.

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Cardinal Blase J. Cupich washes the feet of Venezuelan refugees during Holy Thursday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, Thursday, April 6, 2023.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich washes the feet of Venezuelan refugees during Holy Thursday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral on Thursday. The ritual symbolizes Jesus’ washing the feet of his 12 apostles at the last supper before his crucifixion.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Cardinal Blase Cupich washed and dried the feet of a dozen refugees from Venezuela on Thursday in a traditional Holy Thursday ritual.

The ritual, which symbolizes humility and servitude, was performed during Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. It recalls the foot-washing Jesus performed on his 12 apostles at their last supper together before he was taken away to be crucified.

Keila Puentes, 30, and her 13-year-old son, Juan Pablo, were among the refugees who took part in the ceremony.

“It was beautiful, I never expected something like this,” Puentes said. “It was divine, I give a lot of thanks to God. I didn’t feel worthy of it.”

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Hundreds of people listen to a reading during Holy Thursday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. Since August, more than 5,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago, many making the long journey from Venezuela.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Several of the migrants had tears in their eyes as Cupich knelt and poured water over their feet.

Daniel Zavala, 41, said he felt a little embarrassed during the rite, but he thanked the cardinal for his act of kindness. “It felt good afterwards,” Zavala said.

During his homily, the Rev. Ken Simpson said the ritual also in part symbolizes being generous and that what we receive we must also share with others, including strangers.

He described the migrants as travelers who are “seeking shelter, seeking a place to belong, like all of us do.”

Since August, more than 5,140 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago, including those sent on chartered buses from Texas and Colorado. Most made the long journey to the United States from Venezuela.

Zavala, who arrived in Chicago in October, said the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago has helped him get acclimated to his new country.

“They have helped me in many ways,” Zavala said. “Thank God they do the work.”

Rev. Ken Simpson delivers a Homily during Holy Thursday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, Thursday, April 6, 2023.

In his homily, the Rev. Ken Simpson spoke of the ritual of washing the feet of others as an act of generosity and gratitude in keeping with the spirit of Holy Week.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The Mass and ritual are part of Holy Week, which began Sunday. It is the last week of Lent and immediately precedes Easter Sunday. The week is observed by Catholics and other Christians as a time to remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Puentes said it was difficult to express what the moment meant for her and her son.

“You do it with great humility and a lot of love,” Puentes said. “Its something that I don’t have words to describe. It’s beautiful.”

Contributing: AP

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