Pope will wash the feet of 12 young asylum seekers during traditional Maundy Thursday service By Darren Boyle for MailOnline Published: 11:15 EST, 22 March 2016 | Updated: 12:04 EST, 22 March 2016 Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 young asylum seekers during a traditional Maundy Thursday service. The pontiff will travel to the asylum seeker centre in the town of Castelnuovo di Porto north of Rome in the traditional commemoration of Jesus' last supper with his apostles. According to the Vatican, Pope Francis will use the ceremony to highlight the need of the international community to provide shelter for asylum seekers fleeing conflict in the Middle East. Scroll down for video +3 Pope Francis, pictured, will wash the feet of asylum seekers during a ceremony to mark The Last Supper +3 He will use the Maundy Thursday ceremony to criticise the European Union's handling of the refugee crisis Archbishop Rino Fisichella said: 'He will kneel in front of 12 asylum seekers to wash their feet in a gesture... bringing attention to their condition. Francis has long called for the global community, and Europe in particular, to open its doors to refugees and step up the fight against xenophobia. The ceremony is part of the run-up to Easter Sunday, and has seen the Argentine pontiff in the past wash the feet of prison inmates and disabled people. Shortly after his election in 2013, Francis visited a youth detention centre where he performed the ritual on a group of young inmates including two Muslims - the first Catholic leader ever to do so. Vatican rules had long called for only men to participate, recalling Jesus' 12 apostles and cementing the doctrine of an all-male priesthood. But Francis in January changed the regulations to explicitly allow women to participate. On Sunday, Pope Francis began the Easter season with Palm Sunday Mass. Francis blessed palm and olive branches in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of people to commemorate Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem the week before the crowd turned against him and he was crucified. +3 Francis, pictured, began the Easter season with Mass at St Peter's Square in the Vatican for Palm Sunday He departed from his prepared homily to appeal to nations not to turn their backs on refugees. After mentioning the part of the gospel recounting how Jesus was denied justice and abandoned to his fate, Francis added in unscripted remarks: He said: 'I am thinking of so many other people, so many marginalised people, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees. There are so many who don't want to take responsibility for their destiny.' More than 1.1 million migrants fleeing war and failed states flowed into the European Union in 2015 and the influx has continued, prompting countries straddling the main migration corridor through the Balkans to the wealthy north of the EU to seal their borders, trapping tens of thousands in Greece. Last week, Macedonia trucked 1,500 migrants back to Greece after they forced their way across the border. Images of exhausted migrants fording a fast-moving stream in the cold were splashed across Italian newspapers. Under a European Union deal reached last week with Turkey, all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who cross to Greece illegally by sea will be sent back to Turkey once they are registered and their asylum claims have been processed. In return, the EU will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with more money, early visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations. Palm Sunday marks the start of the busiest week in the Catholic liturgical calendar. The pope presides at two services on Good Friday, including a candlelight Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around Rome's Colosseum. He leads an Easter vigil service on Saturday and on Easter Sunday he delivers his twice-yearly 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and the world) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.