"You who are consecrated, I only tell you one thing," the pope said. "Do not be stubborn, like Peter. Allow your feet to be washed. The Lord is your servant. He is close to you to give you strength, to wash your feet."
In past years Pope Francis has offered the Mass of the Lord's Supper at prisons in Rome, washing the feet of the prisoners himself.
The first was in 2013, just after he became pope, when he visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center. Subsequent Maundy Thursday Masses have been held at the historic Regina Coeli prison, a center for asylum seekers, Rebibbia prison, and Paliano prison.
Pope Francis said in his homily that he had received a letter today from a prison chaplain, who wrote to tell the pope of his plans for Holy Week with the prisoners.
He also recalled an encounter with a bishop, who served in a mission territory and told the pope of his experience visiting a local cemetery to pay homage to the missionary priests who had been buried there before him.
Pope Francis offered Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica with the miraculous crucifix of San Marcello and the Byzantine icon of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, near the altar.
"Today we did not have the Chrism Mass. I hope that we will be able to have it before Pentecost, otherwise we will need to postpone it until next year," he said.
In the intercessory prayers of the liturgy, Pope Francis prayed for humanity to be freed from the pandemic, and for Catholics to have an increased desire to receive the Eucharist.
"Comfort, afflicted humanity, O Lord with the certainty of your victory over evil: heal the sick, console the poor and free all from epidemics, violence and selfishness," he said.
"Lord Jesus, every day you renew your gift. Increase in us the hunger for your Body and your Blood, the only source of eternal life," Pope Francis prayed.