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Priests not obligated to wash women's feet in Holy Thursday ceremony: Cardinal Sarah

March 16, 2016

The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship has explained that priests are allowed-- but not required-- to wash the feet of women during the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.

In answer to questions about the new policy approved by Pope Francis in January, allowing for the inclusion of women in the foot-washing ceremony, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that each priest "has to decide in accord with his own conscience, and according to the purpose for which the Lord instituted this feast."

Traditionally the washing of feet-- repeating Christ's gesture of service to his disciples-- had been restricted to men, since it was seen as symbolic of the priesthood. Pope Francis, in changing the policy, suggested that pastors should select a small group representing all members of the parish. The foot-washing is an optional part of the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  

Cardinal Sarah signed the January decree setting forth the new policy.

 
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