Press Esc to close
Thursday 31 July 2014
News updated at 7:00 PM IST
Weather
Max: 0°C
Min : 0°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
India's Navjot Kaur celebrates after winning a bronze medal against Scotland's Sarah Jones during...

India's Navjot Kaur celebrates after winning a bronze medal against Scotland's Sarah Jones during...

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker walk from South...

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker walk from South...

U S Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval after...

U S Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval after...

Sophie McKinna of England sticks her tongue out as she competes in the Women's Shot Put final at...

Sophie McKinna of England sticks her tongue out as she competes in the Women's Shot Put final at...

Australia's Olivia Vivian performs at the women's All-Around Artistic Gymnastics at the 2014...

Australia's Olivia Vivian performs at the women's All-Around Artistic Gymnastics at the 2014...

David Katoatau of Kiribati dances after winning the gold medal of the men's 105kg weightlifting...

David Katoatau of Kiribati dances after winning the gold medal of the men's 105kg weightlifting...

Schillonie Calvert of Jamaica (R) races Anyika Onuora of England during their women's 200 metres...

Schillonie Calvert of Jamaica (R) races Anyika Onuora of England during their women's 200 metres...

Canada's Isabela Maria Onyshko performs at the women's All-Around Artistic Gymnastics at the 2014...

Canada's Isabela Maria Onyshko performs at the women's All-Around Artistic Gymnastics at the 2014...

Silver medallist India's Lalita poses for photographs at the medal ceremony of women's Freestyle...

Silver medallist India's Lalita poses for photographs at the medal ceremony of women's Freestyle...

India's Vijender Singh after winning against Trinidad and Tobago's Aaron Prince in the Men's...

India's Vijender Singh after winning against Trinidad and Tobago's Aaron Prince in the Men's...

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