A bout of influenza almost prevented Pope Paul from taking part in this year's Easter ceremonies in Rome.
GV EXT Church - St. John in Lateran Basilica in Rome
GV INT Young men seated ready for foot-washing ceremony (2 shots)
GV Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, walks to altar
CU Cardinal speaking in Italian
CU Young men removing footwear
SV & CU Cardinal Ugo Poletti washing and kissing feet (2 shots)
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Background: A bout of influenza almost prevented Pope Paul from taking part in this year's Easter ceremonies in Rome. He was unable to join the Good Friday procession round the Colosseum to Commemorate Christ's walk to Crucifixion. However, his recovery late in the week meant the 80-year-old Pontiff was able to give a brief Good Friday television address, and was scheduled to conduct the main Easter Sunday Mass at St. Peter's.
SYNOPSIS: On Thursday (23 March) at Rome's St. John in Lateran Basilica, the annual Easter foot-washing ritual was performed, with Cardinal Ugo Poletti standing in for the Pope.
Cardinal Poletti is the Pope's personal representative in Rome, and he celebrated Mass before carrying out the special ceremony for the Pontiff. It is not the first time the Pope has had to cancel Easter engagements because of ill-health. Five years ago, there were rumours he might retire at the age of 75, but he has continued his taxing duties, and, by the end of June, will have completed 15 years in office.
The Basilica was packed with Easter celebrants for the annual ritual, which dates from the time of Christ. Before the Last Supper, Christ bathed the feet of his disciples. In the modern ceremonies, the Pontiff traditionally washes the feet of 12 orphans or poor people. A different church is usually chosen each year for the time-honoured rite. The Easter celebrations coincided with a Reuters report that the Vatican is battling against rising costs and falling income. An authoritative Vatican source told the news agency that the Church now lived in a state of substantial poverty, and the future was not very serene.