Associated Press Writer
Thu Apr 13, 6:03 PM ET
ROME - Pope Benedict XVI Thursday recounted the Biblical betrayal of Jesus by Judas, calling the apostle a double-crosser for whom "money was more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and his love."
Benedict's traditional depiction of Judas came during his Holy Thursday homily, a week after the release of an ancient Egyptian Coptic text dubbed the "Gospel of Judas," in which Judas is portrayed not as Jesus' betrayer but as his confidant who was doing his will by handing him over to his enemies to be crucified.
Holy Thursday marks the start of a series of solemn ceremonies in the Catholic Church in which the faithful relive Jesus' suffering, crucifixion and death — and then his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
During the service, the holy father humbly washed the feet of 12 men, re-enacting Jesus' washing of his apostles' feet during the Last Supper and saying the act cleansed the "filth" of mankind.
As a choir's hymn filled St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, Benedict poured water from a golden vase over each of the men's feet and scrubbed each one dry in an act of humility and service.
In his homily, Benedict said Jesus washed his disciples' feet to purify them so they could join him at the Last Supper, the meal which the faithful believe Jesus shared with his apostles before he was betrayed by his apostle Judas and crucified.
"God comes down and becomes a slave; he washes our feet so we can be at his table," Benedict said. "The bath in which he washes us is his love, ready to confront death. Only love has the purifying force that takes away our filth and elevates us to God."
Earlier, Benedict presided over another Mass dedicated to priests during which he recalled the sacrifice of a cleric slain in Turkey.
Benedict read a letter written by Rev. Andrea Santoro in which the Italian prelate spoke of his willingness to offer his own body for the sake of preaching Catholicism in largely Muslim Turkey.
Santoro, 60, was shot and killed Feb. 5 while he prayed in his parish in the Black Sea city of Trabzon. Witnesses said the killer, a 16-year-old boy, screamed "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," before firing two bullets into Santoro's back.
Benedict quoted Santoro as saying in his letter that he had chosen to live in Turkey to be among its people, "lending" his body to Christ to do so.
"One becomes capable of salvation only by offering one's own body," Santoro wrote.
Santoro's slaying occurred at the height of unrest in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe. Top church officials have called Santoro a martyr.
The Vatican announced earlier this month that money collected during the Holy Thursday Mass would be used to rebuild houses for victims of a February mudslide in the Philippines that buried the town of Guinsaugon and killed more than 1,000 people.
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