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July 18, 2018

Women may now have their feet washed at Holy Thursday – Pope

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Pope Francis has changed the rules for the Church’s traditional foot-washing ceremony on Holy Thursday, issuing a decree allowing women to participate in what has until now been a ritual officially open only to men.

In a letter addressed to Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pope said that from now on the 12 persons chosen to participate in the ritual of the washing of the feet will be selected “from among all members of the People of God.”

“For some time I have been reflecting on the rite of the washing of the feet, which forms part of the Liturgy of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the intention of improving the ways in which it is put into practice, so that we fully express the meaning of the gesture made by Jesus in the Upper Room, his gift of self until the end for the salvation of the world, his boundless charity.”

Francis also stressed that “an adequate explanation of the meaning of the rite itself” ought to be provided for those chosen to participate.

The official decree was signed by Cardinal Sarah Jan. 6. In it, the cardinal specified that the previous text of the Roman Missal, which says that “the men chosen are accompanied by the ministers,” has now been changed to read “those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers.”

Pastors can freely choose a group of faithful “that represents the variety and unity of every part of the people of God,” he said, explaining that this group may now consist of “men and women, and suitably of young and elderly, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated and laity.”

Many parishes around the world had already been including women in the ritual for years; the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship makes the practice licit.


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