Pope changes Vatican rules to include women in Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual

Pontiff defies Catholic liturgy to break longstanding convention

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The Independent Online

The Pope has changed Vatican rules to include women in the Holy Thursday foot-washing Easter ritual.

Previously, Catholic liturgy decreed that only men could have their feet washed in the rite performed by priests on the Thursday before Easter.

But nearly three years after first breaking convention himself, when he washed the feet of two women prisoners on his first Holy Thursday as Pope, the Pontiff has officially removed the restriction from the Roman Missal, the book that directs all Catholic liturgy.

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Instructions now describe participants in the rite, which recalls Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, as “the pre-chosen among the people of God”, rather than “the men pre-chosen”.

It is the latest move from the 266th pontiff to gently question some of the Catholic church’s more conservative positions. 

The inclusion of women is “an attempt…to express the full meaning of the gesture performed by Jesus at the Last Supper…his boundless charity”, Pope Francis wrote in a letter to the Vatican’s head of worship and sacraments. 

Christians have performed foot-washing ceremonies on the Thursday before Easter since at least the late 1100s, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.