A priest has abandoned an Easter feet-washing ceremony after admitting it was “seriously sinful”.

Father Ray Blake used to wash the feet of the homeless every Holy Thursday at St Mary Magdalen Church in Upper North Street, Brighton.

But writing on his blog, Father Blake revealed the ceremony at the yearly Mass of Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday was “using the poor and exploiting their poverty”.

He even admitted to paying homeless people in order to get them to take part in the “drama”.

He wrote: “In Brighton it is pretty easy to find a dozen homeless people for the foot washing at The Mass of Lord’s Supper.

“They are more than happy to do something on a Thursday evening and to have a part in the drama, and if you also offer a new sleeping bag or better a small amount of cash they are quite delighted.

“And the good thing is the sign it gives: we are a Church who puts the poor at its heart, and you are a priest who cares for the poor.”

'Exploiting poverty'

He added: “I have stopped doing it, because it was seriously sinful. I was using the poor, and exploiting their poverty and I was using the liturgy to satisfy my own pride.

“It rather thrilled me that people would suggest this parish and I were more concerned about the poor than the next door parish.

“If I was willing to give up my bed or what is more valuable to me, my solitude and silence, even the simplicity of my life it might have been of value. There is a great danger for priests and bishops to use religion as theatre.”

The ceremony originates from the Bible story of when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

In England, the custom of washing feet by the Monarch was carried out until 1689.

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