'Foot-washing' Ritual: Confusion Prevails Over Pope's Decree

Holy Week observance began on Sunday, but confusion prevails locally over Pope Francis’ decree that women also should be included.

Published: 21st March 2016 07:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st March 2016 07:23 AM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Holy Week observance began on Sunday, but confusion prevails locally over Pope Francis’ decree that women also should be included in the foot-washing ritual on Maundy Thursday.

The Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram has asked its parishes to discuss and decide on the matter, Vicar General Fr Eugene Pereira has said.

Foot.jpg“The Archdiocese is very positive regarding the decree. But, there is some confusion regarding the ritual, since the decree was issued recently. So, we have asked the parishes to discuss it,” Pereira said.

Latin Archbishop of Thiruvananthapuram M Soosai Pakiam traditionally washes the feet of the faithful at the St Joseph’s Metropolitan Church, Palayam.

This ritual recalls the Biblical instance of Jesus Christ washing the feet of his apostles. Pope Francis had decreed that the ‘Washing the Feet’ ceremony need not be limited to men alone in January this year.

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, headed by Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, who is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Council of India (CBCI), will stick to the tradition of washing the feet of men, Church officials said. The Pope had made the change for the Roman Rite specifically, they said.

“He had made it clear that the Eastern Churches can follow their own traditions in this regard,” Fr Bovas Melloot, spokesperson of the Church, said.

What the Decree Says

In December 2015, Pope Francis wrote to Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, requesting the change. In January, the congregation issued the decree. An excerpt from it reads: “Pastors may select a small group of the faithful to represent the variety and the unity of each part of the people of God. Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity.”


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