In Startling Move, Pope Francis Includes Women in Foot-Washing Rite


Orthodox members of the Catholic Church are upset over the inclusion of women in foot-washing rite.

In a move which rocked the Catholic universe, Pope Francis permitted Catholic priests to wash feet of both men and women on Holy Tuesday. The church law decrees that priests can only wash the feet of men. His move delighted activities supporting women’s rights.

In Startling Move, Pope Francis Includes Women in Foot-Washing Rite[/tweetthis]

The standard, long standard practice is that the priest will wash and kiss the feet of 12 individuals. The action commemorates Jesus' humble gesture towards the apostles in the night prior to his death. However, Pope Francis, in his letter to a particular Vatican department which regulates worship rites, he said that the group must be composed of every member of the people of God. These include women as well.

The feet washing ritual occurs in parishes controlled by the Catholic Church on Holy Thursday. It is an international event and takes place four days prior to Easter. Even as some parishes within he Church has included girls and women, a majority have clung to written rules, specifically in the developing nations.

This action by the Pope has upset orthodox members of the Catholic Church. They argue that Francis must follow church law to its direct interpretation. There are exceptions like the American parishes, which have washed women’s feet for some time now. However, many U.S. parishes continue to follow the older doctrine of barring women from this ritual.

The reform is reflected in the Pope's own action, when, just two weeks post the 2013 election, he washed feet of a few young people, among them a Muslim and women. Francis visited a detention center a little distance away from Rome.

Critics of such a change say that the rules were made as Jesus' disciples consisted exclusively of men. It is the belief of the Catholic Church that Last Supper represents formal institution of all male priesthood. It follows that any action to diversify the people whose feet the priest washes, with the priest taking Jesus' role, may lead to questions concerning ordination.

Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society supports the older, orthodox practices. He said that the new development makes it harder to understand an all-male priesthood. The move by the Pope gives credence to the trend which has witnessed priests getting more and more surrounded by women at the time of mass.

For women's rights advocates in church, the move by Pope Francis is a delightful development. Erin Hanna of Women's Ordination Conference described it as a wonderful step in the right direction. It means change can be had, as doors appear to open in Vatican.


Follow the Conversation on Twitter