THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram took a major break from tradition when Archbishop M Soosa Pakiam, as part of the Maundy Thursday observance, washed the feet of six women.
The first-of-its-kind event, held at the St Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Palayam, was preceded by a lengthy explanation by the Archbishop about the decree issued by Pope Francis seeking the inclusion of women in the traditional foot-washing ritual. The six women included two differently-abled persons and four nuns from different congregations under the Archdiocese. The Archbishop also washed the feet of six men, making up the traditional 12 representing the apostles whose feet Christ washed before the Last Supper.Differences of opinion regarding the change had been acute within the Thiruvananthapuram Archdiocese and it was only on late Tuesday evening that the decision was finalised favouring women, sources said. Soosa Pakiam, addressing the faithful on Thursday evening, said that all regional churches will have to accept the change.
“No one need doubt that it will be implemented in due course,” he said. The Pope too is aware that awareness is needed regarding such changes, but waiting for ‘100 per cent awareness’ will result in nothing getting implemented, he said. Delving deep into the history of foot washing, Soosa Pakiam said that there never ever existed a unified system on it. For instance, the feet of 13 individuals were washed instead of 12 in some Churches. Meanwhile, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, headed by Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, the president of the Catholic Bishops Council of India, stuck to tradition. Cleemis who led the ceremony at the St Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, washed the feet of 12 men.
Not all churches Comply with Papal Decree
T’Puram: Not all churches under the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram included women in the foot-washing ritual on Thursday. Following differences of opinion within the community, the Archdiocese had left it to the discretion of individual parishes to take their own decision. Archbishop M Soosa Pakiam, who gave a detailed explanation regarding the changes recommended by Pope Francis regarding the Foot Washing ceremony at the St Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral, asserted that everyone should have the mindset to accept the Pope’s decision. The Archbishop’s reminder comes following “concerns and doubts” raised by certain sections about the inclusion of women in the ritual. “No doubt it has created certain doubts, and many people have written to the Pope seeking guidelines regarding its implementation,” he said, addressing the Maundy Thursday ceremony at the St Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Pattom. As per the existing tradition, the feet of only men were washed. In a decree issued in January this year, he changed it to “People of God” including women, Soosa Pakiam said. Another change concerned the number. Traditionally, the feet of 12 men were washed. The new decree does not specify a number. “It may depend on the situation and requirement of regional churches,” he said.