Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pope Francis washing women's feet

Pope Francis went to a juvenile prison to wash the feet of 12 individuals, some Christians, some Muslims, some women, some men. I think this sent a good message that he was willing to wash the feet of criminals, non-Christians, men, and women. As the Bible reminds us, we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God and we are therefore no different than these criminals.

But Pope Francis violated a liturgical rule by washing the feet of women. The symbolism of the washing of the feet is that the priest, bishop, or in this case, pope, is ultimately a servant to all the faithful. But it also represents the washing of the feet of the 12 apostles. All of the apostles were men and therefore it is appropriate for the priest to wash only the feet of men. But this is not just me saying this. This is specified in the rubric of the Sacramentary, which is the book outlining the procedures to be followed by the priest during Mass. This includes Holy Thursday when the washing of the feet takes places.

The Sacramentary states:

Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of feet follows the homily. The men who have been chosen (viri selecti) are led by the ministers to chairs prepared at a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers he pours water over each one's feet and dries them.

It specifically lists men as receiving the washing of the feet. No exception is made for women.

The USCCB has made an exception to allow women, by emphasizing the symbolism of service and charity and placing less emphasis on the apostleship of the twelve men.

Charity is wonderful, one of the three holiest virtues. But charity cannot justify incorrect liturgical actions. If people are offended that women cannot participate in this event, it is possible that they do not know the meaning behind it. Are they also offended that Jesus selected only men as apostles?

The Sacramentary does not seem to specify that the participants must be Christian, and therefore it seems alright that some participants were non-Christian. Of course, this is not an infallible teaching held in the deposit of faith and does not amount to a doctrine or dogma. I think Pope Francis is a great pope and I want him to do a good job.

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