Sri Lankan bishops want women in washing of feet

Pastors told to follow Pope Francis' instruction for Holy Thursday
Sri Lankan bishops want women in washing of feet

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a man as he performs the traditional washing of the feet during a visit at a center for disabled people as part of Holy Thursday Mass in 2014 in Rome. (Photo by AFP) reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka
February 19, 2016
Sri Lankan bishops have asked that priests follow Pope Francis' instruction of including women in the washing of the feet during Mass on Holy Thursday.*

"Pastors may select for the washing of the feet, a small group of the faithful to represent in variety and unity each part of the people of God," said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, president of the Sri Lankan bishops' conference, in a statement Feb. 19.

"Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity," the cardinal said.

Pope Francis had in January instructed the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to effect the changes in the rubric of the missal regarding the washing of the feet. 

This new directive will take effect on Holy Thursday, March 24.

Previously, the missal said only males should participate in the foot-washing ceremony. Pope Francis however broke with that tradition when he included women in his celebration of Holy Thursday in 2013.

The pope is "reminding pastors of their responsibilities to properly instruct both the chosen faithful as well as all the others, so that they may participate consciously, actively and fruitfully in the rite," said Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy, chairman of the bishop's Catholic National Commission for Liturgy and Culture.

All pastors "will follow" the change that has been amended in the liturgy "in virtue of the faculties granted by the supreme pontiff," the bishop said.

"The amended rubric is to be followed strictly by all pastors," said Bishop Fernando, who also signed the statement.

"This is something of a new experience for our local community as we have never seen women participation at the of washing of the feet during Holy Thursday. We are very positive of the changes," said Rayan Senasinghe, a Catholic from Colombo Archdiocese.

"Women, sick and vulnerable people may now feel that they are also part of the church with much love," he said.

However, he pointed out that his grandparents "are very negative about the Holy Father's decision about feet washing of women."

Although there is no mention in both the previous or amended rubric on the kissing of the feet of those whose feet are washed during the Holy Thursday liturgy, it has been customary for priests to do so after pouring water and drying them.

"Therefore the pastors are exhorted to follow the rubric very strictly," the Sri Lankan bishops said in their statement. 

Traditionally Sri Lankan men and women will refrain from physical contact in public.

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*This paragraph has been updated. The sentence beginning "Sri Lankan bishops have ordered" has been changed to "Sri Lankan bishops have asked."

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