Pope Francis opens foot-washing rite to women

By: 
Tom Hinde
Publisher

Pope Francis has changed church regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate in the Easter Week foot-washing ritual, after having shocked many Catholics by performing the rite on women and Muslims just weeks after he was elected. Proponents of women's ordination hailed Francis' decree, while traditionalist Catholics warned it would weaken the church and lead to questions about the inviolability of the all-male priesthood.

Vatican rules for the Holy Thursday rite had long called for only men to participate. Popes past and many priests traditionally performed the ritual on 12 Catholic men, recalling Jesus' 12 apostles and further cementing the doctrine of an all-male priesthood. Shortly after he was elected in March of 2013, Francis raised conservative eyebrows by performing the rite on men and women, Catholics as well as Muslims, at a juvenile detention facility in Rome.

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