The first Pope to take the name Francis spent part of yesterday, Maundy Thursday, at a detention centre near Rome where he washed young offenders’ feet.
Recent pontiffs have chosen one of the Italian capital’s splendid basilicas to perform this Christ-like act of humility.
It is less than three weeks since his election, but the new Pope is already transforming the public face of the office. Almost his first move was to reduce his ceremonial guard. A second was to replace the Popemobile with a standard jeep. And he has chosen to live in two rooms at the Vatican guesthouse, rather than move into the official apartment. Neither of Francis’s predecessors can be accused of extravagance, and the concern of John Paul’s entourage for his security was all too justified. But Francis is setting a new standard for modesty that already commands respect. It is a tonal change of which secular leaders might also take note.