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Philippine priest washes feet of Manila street dwellers

Divine Word Society's center gives spiritual nourishment to the homeless during Holy Week

Philippine priest washes feet of Manila street dwellers

Society of the Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva washes the feet of a street dweller at St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center in Manila on April 1. (Photo supplied)

A Catholic priest in the Philippines has commemorated Jesus Christ’s last supper by washing the feet of street dwellers and staff of the St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center, a foundation that feeds Manila’s homeless every day.

Society of the Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva, founder and director of the center, washed the feet of street dwellers who underwent formation and training under his congregation.

“From the culture in the streets to the culture here in the Kalinga Center … Before they only begged for food, now they are helping us to feed Manila’s street dwellers,” Father Villanueva told UCA News.

The Kalinga Center prepares an average of 1,000 food packs per day to feed the homeless in the Philippine capital.

The center also accepts street dwellers who want to undergo basic livelihood courses such as soap making and carpentry.

“Today, we are reminded that Christ humbled himself to redeem mankind from sin. He did not only come for the righteous but for the most sinful among men. His message was a message of hope. Everyone could change — from being fed to someone who feeds,” Father Villanueva said in his homily on April 1.

Former street dwellers help in the center’s kitchen by cooking and preparing meals for the feeding program.

After reading the Gospel, Father Villanueva removed his chasuble and stole and washed the feet of street dwellers with water. He also kissed the feet as Jesus did to his apostles.

Father Villanueva reminded churchgoers that Christ taught his disciples to be servant leaders so that they too may be servant leaders to others.

“Servant leadership. A leader must serve and must be selfless. He must not sow fear or death in order to be respected. He must not kill in order to prove that his leadership is effective,” Father Villanueva added.

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“Here at the Kalinga Center, we serve as a beacon of home for Metro Manila’s homeless and poorest of the poor. We envision a society where nobody is left behind and the dignity of all people us upheld, secured, respected and celebrated.”

Father Villanueva, however, has lamented that the poor’s human rights are violated, particularly by extrajudicial killings.

“When we keep silent. When we keep our mouths shut over extrajudicial killings, we are like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. We also betray the Lord in our own ways,” he said.

Part of following Christ is to fight the practices that disrespect the dignity of the human person, he said.

“There are people around us who continue to spread dirt and play dirty.  As we have been washed by his suffering, death and resurrection, let us take courage to wash the dirt of greed and death that the world spreads. Let us wash them with the new life Christ offers us through his cross and resurrection,” the priest said.

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