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The Great Foot Washing Controversey

With Palm Sunday tomorrow, and Holy Thursday less than a week away, it is almost time for the great annual liturgical argument, should women be allowed to have their feet washed on Holy Thursday?

An article in today's Boston Telegram noted that Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley has decided to wash the feet of both men and women this year, after consultation with the Congregation for Divine Worship. Last year he was criticized for washing the feet of 12 men.

Such is consistent with a USCCB statement from 1987 that notes:

Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the "Teacher and Lord" who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality,2 the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more.

In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.

While the "proper" symbolic emphasis of the ritual can make for heated discussion, from a juridical standpoint women can indeed get their feet washed too.


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