Pope Francis has washed the feet of 12 young prisoners as part of Maundy Thursday celebrations.

The new pope performed the ceremony at Casal del Marmo prison in Rome where photogoraphy was banned at the ceremony.

In another break from tradition typical of the new pontiff, he left Vatican City to perform the duty. Usually, the washing of feet for Easter Week takes place in St Peter's Basilica.

By washing the feet of young offenders in Rome, the pope was repeating what he had done as cardinal of Buenos Aires in 2008 when he washed and kissed the feet of drug addicts at a rehab centre.

The ceremony in the Rome prison was another sign of the new Pope's humility. He has spurned the lavish papal apartments in the Vatican in favour of living in two sparse rooms elsewhere in the Holy City.

The act of contrition expressed in the washing of feet echoed his wish for the Catholic Church to be "for the poor". In contrast, his predecessor, Benedict XVI, performed the act twice and then delegated it to priests.

By washing the feet of the lowly in society, Pope Francis is following the example of Jesus. According to the Bible, he washed the feet of his disciples on the night of the Last Supper.

After the meal, which founded the sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, where he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and arrested and crucified.