What was hoped to be achieved by Francis’s kissing of the feet (or more accurately the shoes) of representatives of the warring factions in South Sudan?
‘If I have washed your feet, so ought you to wash one another’s feet’.
In following what he supposed to be he example of Jesus, the Holy Father was, it seems, hoping to excite humility and mutual respect. The participants were all Christians of various denominations and would have recognized the symbolic action for what it was. No Muslims this time.
The foot kissing, then, was a legitimate extension of the foot-washing of Holy Week, and a fitting start to a spiritual retreat which, considering the participants, must have had its own problems.
But another element cannot be excluded.
Francis is rather given to such gestures. And this one – as the oft-repeated video proves – was not without an element of the bizarre: Bergoglio, the Anti-Trump, marketing his humility as part of the Art of the Deal.