Foot-washing ritual not limited to men, Vatican says in new decree

Categories: Latest News

January 21, 2016

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a female inmate during the Holy Thursday Mass at Rebibbia prison in Rome in this April 2, 2015, file photo. Following a request by Pope Francis, the Vatican issued a decree Jan. 21 specifying that the Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual can include women. (CNS photo/Reuters via L'Osservatore Romano) See POPE-RITE-FEET Jan. 21, 2016.

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a female inmate during the Holy Thursday Mass at Rebibbia prison in Rome in this April 2, 2015, file photo. Following a request by Pope Francis, the Vatican issued a decree Jan. 21 specifying that the Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual can include women. (CNS photo/Reuters via L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Following a request by Pope Francis, the Vatican issued a decree specifying that the Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual can include “all members of the people of God,” including women — a practice already observed by the pope and many priests around the world.

In a letter dated December 2014 and addressed to Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, the pope said the rubric of the Roman Missal, which mentions only men as participants in the foot-washing rite, should be changed so that priests can choose from all members of the church.

The pope said the change would help express the full meaning of Jesus’ gesture at the Last Supper, his “giving himself ‘to the end’ for the salvation of the world” and his endless charity. However, the pope insisted those chosen be given “an adequate explanation of the meaning of the rite itself.”

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