Migrants and refugees wait in a long line Feb. 25 to receive food distributed by volunteers after their arrival in Athens, Greece. (CNS photo/Simela Pantzartzi, EPA)

In a powerful symbolic gesture that is sure to resonate across the globe from Europe to the United States and Australia, Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 refugees on Holy Thursday in Rome.

He will do so on March 24, at a center that assists migrants in the city. The Vatican has not yet disclosed the venue.

The breaking news comes at a time when many politicians in Europe, the United States and elsewhere are calling for the closing of the doors of their countries to refugees and migrants. Several governments in Europe, including Austria, Poland, Hungary and Macedonia, have or are in process of closing their frontiers or building barriers or walls to what they perceive as a tidal wave of migrants and refugees from war-torn Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East and Africa. The question of immigration is at the center of political debate in the United States and Australia, as well as in Germany, where yesterday many voters cast their ballot against the more humanitarian approach of Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is an issue that is not going to disappear as long as the wars continue and dire poverty forces people to leave their homes and the countries of their birth.

http://americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/pope-francis-will-wash-feet-refugees-holy-thursday-rome

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