In many Catholic parishes on Holy Thursday, a foot washing ritual incorporated into Mass technically specifies that only men should take part because Jesus’ disciples on Holy Thursday were all male but the Argentinian Pontiff who is fond of choosing an unconventional way to perform a gesture of service, broke the tradition in 2013 when he washed women prisoners’ feet.
Pope Francis has reportedly issued a decree including women in the Holy Thursday foot -washing ritual which may actually stir up controversies among tradition-minded Catholics.
Pope Francis stunned church observers shortly after his election in 2013 by washing the feet of 12 young people, two women and two Muslims.
The decree which says that “the rite should no longer be limited to men” was published today by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments according to the German branch of Vatican Radio and signed by prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah.
The foot-washing rite is known as the Mandatum, after the first word of Jesus’s saying before he washed his disciples’ feet in John 13:34: “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”).
The current rubric for the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday reads: “After the homily, where a pastoral reason suggests it, the Washing of Feet follows. The men who have been chosen (viri selecti) are led by the ministers to seats prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each one, and, with the help of the ministers, pours water over each one’s feet and then dries them.”