During the homily, the Argentine pontiff called on the priests to be good pastors. He encouraged them to go out into their communities to help people, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
"We need to 'go out' then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the 'outskirts' where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters," he said.
In a separate mass later in the day, Francis was to wash the feet of young inmates at Rome's Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center, ANSA said.
Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, is a pre-Easter feast day and celebrates the Last Supper of Jesus with his Apostles.