Pope Francis opens foot-washing rite to women

Pope Francis has changed the rules so that a priest may wash the feet of women and others in the community and not just men, as church law had previously decreed.

The change, announced on Jan. 20, reflects Francis’ own groundbreaking gesture when, just a month after his election in 2013, he washed the feet of young people—including women and Muslims—at a youth detention center outside Rome.

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That act upset many traditionalists who argued that the pope should follow church law while others say the rules required that only men should be chosen because the rite recreates Jesus’ action at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of his twelve male disciples.

While the official change was announced in a decree issued Thursday by Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican liturgy office that sets rules for celebrating Mass and other rites, the Vatican also released a letter from Francis to Sarah in December 2014 in which he asked him to make changes so that the rite “might fully express the significance of the gesture performed by Jesus at the Last Supper.”

There was no immediate explanation for the lag time.

You can read the official English translation of the decree from the Congregation of Divine Worshop and the Discipline of the Sacraments here

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William Rydberg
2 years ago
I have read this "important" foot washing story repeated in these pages several times. Why haven't we seen graphic pictures of Pope Francis kissing that Muslim woman's feet? Can you direct us to the picture? What is the intent here? The Operational issues need to be but likely have not been considered, as well as the catechetical value of a Christian Pope kissing the foot of a Muslim woman needs to be explained to one billion or so Muslims . I personally have the opinion that such a graphic picture would tend to incite Muslim outrage (at a minimum) from a Muslim propriety point of view, unless the woman is either his wife, daughter, mother, or possibly his sister. As for other non-Christians as well as agnostics and atheists, propriety as well as suggestions of salaciousness are highly likely to percolate in my opinion, unless of course the woman is his wife, daughter, mother, or possibly his sister. I know that the small cadre of Disproportionately influential Catholic elitists, love this stuff. As for most of us in the parishes, it's another Operational challenge and a potential PR nightmare if Father is perceived to be taking too long with a person and someone reports it to any number of Authorities or interest groups. Rebuttals will be necessary, escalation to Diocesan Authorities required. Police notified, etc.. This is today's reality in North America where we labor in an atmosphere of suspicion due to unfortunate well known and well documented failings of the past. Then maybe, just maybe after settling the distracting PR Issues, we can start to proclaim the Gospel to the World. Just my opinion...
Joseph Manta
2 years ago
I don't understand why this is news worthy. Our parish has been washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday. This seems to make it appear that this is something news by Pope Francis. It's not.

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