Pope Francis washes refugees' feet in Maundy Thursday service

Pope Francis has marked Maundy Thursday by washing and kissing the feet of 11 refugees at a centre in Rome. The group included Muslims and Orthodox Christians.

He made his comments at a traditional pre-Easter ritual to commemorate Jesus' gesture towards his apostles on the night before he died.

Traditionally, priests in several Christian denominations have washed the feet of their congregations on the day before Good Friday. It recalls Jesus washing the feet of Peter and the disciples during the Last Supper as told in John's Gospel.

The group chosen by the Pope to have their feet washed is often seen as significant. Pope Francis has already changed the rules on the ritual, meaning women can officially have their feet washed. On his first Maundy Thursday as Pope he chose to wash the feet of Muslims as well as Christians in a young offenders centre.

"All of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers, children of the same God, who want to live in peace, integrated," he said in unscripted comments at a shelter north of Rome that houses refugees seeking political asylum.

"Three days ago, there was a gesture of war, of destruction, in a city of Europe by people who don't want to live in peace," he said.

"Behind that gesture there were arms manufacturers, arms traffickers, who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood," he said.

Before Francis became pope, the ceremony was held in St Peter's or another Rome basilica and only included Catholic men, usually priests. But after his election in 2013, he continued the tradition he started as archbishop of Buenos Aires, allowing women and non-Catholics to participate.

Additional reporting by Reuters.