TODAY   |  March 29, 2013

Pope Francis washes, kisses feet of juvenile inmates

In simple ivory vestments, Pope Francis did something historic during a church service: He washed and kissed the feet of 12 teenage inmates. NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports.

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>>> this morning pope francis marks his first good friday as the leader of the catholic church , and he's demonstrating what makes him different by doing something no pope has done before. nbc's michelle kosinski is live in rome. michelle, good morning.

>> reporter: hi, tamron. in his two weeks as pope, francis has made it a point to tell priests here you need to get out of the basilicas, go to where people are suffering, get close to people, a message he has been living in some surprising ways. the music of guitars, pope francis and his simple ivory vestments, something historic for this traditional service. he washed and kissed the feet of 12 juvenile inmates, sneakers and socks, big toes and tattoos. the pope said this is a symbol that i am at your service and we have to help one another. among them africans, muslims and women. some catholic churches would never include them in a remembrance of jesus with his male apostles. this pope making his philosophy very much known.

>> he has compared it to the life of a shepherd. a shepherd likes the smell of his sheep. so basically he's saying you as priests, don't worry about your careers. get your hands dirty. go out and work with the poor people .

>> he's rejecting all the gold and stuff.

>> he's a very humble man.

>> i think it's radical, meaning getting back to the roots of what the catholic church should be all about.

>> reporter: he signs his letters just francis and makes his own follow calls and refers to himself by his last name, bergoglio. he's chosen this bare hotel room with a sitting room over the palatial papal penthouse.

>> when he walked in, he said this is too big for me. when i met hires he was wearing a plastic watch which if you want to be generous cost about $5 or $6 and he was still wearing it the second time i saw him about ten days later.

>> reporter: he was the same when he was archbishop in argentina. he did not move into the palace, cooked his own meals and took the bus, and for people who might ask does he really want to be pope, those who know his story say absolutely, and he seems to be enjoying being himself. tamron.

>> wow, thank you, michelle.