CHAPEL HILL – Good Friday marks a special time for Catholics as they celebrate Easter Weekend with their new leader, Pope Francis.

Father Scott McCue, of the Saint Thomas More Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, says Catholics around the world are united during the Holy Week as many of the ceremonies are televised.

“But in general I’d say there’s lots of excitement in the Catholic world these days as Pope Francis is doing everything for the first time,” Father McCue said. “He’ll celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Mass. People will be able to see it around the world as he comes and preaches his messages to all of us.”

Father McCue says he was touched by what Francis did on Holy Thursday.  He washed and kissed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention center in Italy. Two of those inmates were women. This is significant because historically, including women in that part of the Holy Thursday Mass is frowned upon. Normally the 12 people are priests, representing the 12 disciples.

Also, previous popes have performed the foot-washing ritual at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.  Performing the ceremony in a juvenile detention center breaks out of normal traditions.

Father McCue explains the Sacred Paschal Triduum—the three days known as Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil—are the three holiest days of the liturgical year.

“The highpoint of all of this comes on Saturday night for the Easter Vigil. It is the most important thing we do all year as Catholics,” Father McCue said.

According to Vatican figures, there are an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world. More than 40-percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America.  Francis, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the first pope from the Americas and the first non-European pope since the eighth century. He is also the first Jesuit Pope.

Francis was elected after his predecessor, Pope Benedict, retired in February. Benedict was the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.