Wednesday 16 April 2014
News updated at 4:16 PM IST
Weather
Max: 34°C
Min : 22.7°C
In Bangalore
Sunny day

Pope breaks church tradition, washes women's feet

Rome, Mar 29, 2013, AP:
Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention centre of Casal del Marmo, Rome, on Thursday. AP photo

In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention centre — a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.

No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis’ gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a “questionable example.”

Liberals have welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.
Speaking to the young offenders, including Muslims and Orthodox Christians, Francis said Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service.


“This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service,” Francis told the group, aged 14 to 21, at the Casal del Marmo detention facility in Rome.

“Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us,” the pope said. “This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service.”

In a video released by the Vatican, the 76-year-old Francis was shown kneeling on the stone floor as he poured water from a silver chalice over the feet of a dozen youths: black, white, male, female, even feet with tattoos.

Then, after drying each one with a cotton towel, he bent over and kissed it. Previous popes carried out the Holy Thursday rite in Rome’s grand St John Lateran basilica, choosing 12 priests to represent the 12 apostles whose feet Christ washed during the Last Supper before his crucifixion.

Before he became pope, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio celebrated the ritual foot-washing in jails, hospitals or hospices. He often involved women. Photographs show him washing the feet of a woman holding her newborn child in her arms.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said he didn’t want to wade into a canonical dispute over the matter. However, he noted that in a “grand solemn celebration” of the rite, only men are included because Christ washed the feet of his 12 apostles, all of whom were male.

“Here, the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women,” Lombardi wrote in an email.

Others on the more liberal side of the debate welcomed the example Francis set.

“The pope’s washing the feet of women is hugely significant because including women in this part of the Holy Thursday Mass has been frowned on - and even banned– in some dioceses,” said the Rev James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of “The Jesuit Guide.”

“It shows the all-embracing love of Christ, who ministered to all he met: man or woman, slave or free, Jew or Gentile.”

Go to Top

Photo Gallery
US actress Emma Stone poses for the media during the Germany premiere of the movie 'The Amazing ...

US actress Emma Stone poses for the media during the Germany premiere of the movie 'The Amazing ...

2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor Erika Brannock, a pre-school teacher from the Baltimore ...

2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor Erika Brannock, a pre-school teacher from the Baltimore ...

Family members and survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing walk down Boylston Street for a rem

Family members and survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing walk down Boylston Street for a rem

An injured passenger who was on a sinking ship, is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen ...

An injured passenger who was on a sinking ship, is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen ...

A passenger is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen from a sinking ship in the sea off ...

A passenger is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen from a sinking ship in the sea off ...

South Korea rescue helicopters fly over to rescue passengers from passenger ship Sewol ...

South Korea rescue helicopters fly over to rescue passengers from passenger ship Sewol ...

South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue ...

South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue ...

Britain's Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge meets with a girl during a walkabout in the Civic Square...

Britain's Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge meets with a girl during a walkabout in the Civic Square...

Britain's Prince William carries Prince George with his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge ...

Britain's Prince William carries Prince George with his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge ...

This multiple-exposure composite photo of the moon was made beginning at 1 a.m., CDT, Tuesday ...

This multiple-exposure composite photo of the moon was made beginning at 1 a.m., CDT, Tuesday ...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bangalore - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523