A Latin diocese in Kerala to wash feet of women on Maundy Thursday

Thiruvananthapuram, March 24 (IANS) As Christians commemorate on Thursday Jesus washing the feet of his 12 apostles before having the Last Supper, the Latin Church’s diocese here will extend the ritual to girls and women.

The change in ‘foot washing’ ritual on ‘Maundy Thursday’ is in line with a decree issued in January by Pope Francis, saying the rite should no longer be limited to men and boys, but also include women and young girls.

“The decision to extend the ritual to women and girls was taken after the church discussed it at various levels,” a spokesperson of Latin Church’s diocese here told IANS.

Archbishop M. Soosaipakiam will perform the ritual on Thursday evening on women also at the St. Joseph’s cathedral situated in the heart of the state capital, the spokesperson said.

The Latin Church is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church headed by Bishop of Rome, more popularly known as Pope.

Along with the Syro Malabar Church and the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, it accounts for Kerala’s Catholics who make up about half of the 61.41 lakh Christians in the state.

Washing of the feet is the most important ritual on Maundy Thursday.

The change, Pope Francis said, is “an attempt to improve the method of implementation, to express the full meaning of the gesture performed by Jesus at the Last Supper…”

While the Latin Church’s diocese here has decided to make the change, other dioceses have decided to take it up next year.

The Syro Malabar Church also decided to look into the matter next year.

Leading the service in Kochi, Mar George Cardinal Alencherry, the head of the Syro Malabar Church, washed the feet of 12 men only.

“Today (Thursday) this will not happen in our churches,” Paul Thelekkat, a senior priest of the Syro Malabar Church, told IANS.

The Syro Malankara Catholic Church has also decided to keep the change in ritual in abeyance, pending discussions at all levels.

Before becoming the Pope, Francis, as a bishop, used to wash the feet of not only women but also non-Christians in the rituals in his home country Argentina, Thelekkat observed.

“Now the Pope has made a change in the ritual. But as far as the oriental Catholics (Syro Malabar Church and the Syro Malankara Catholic Church) are concerned ritual changes are made not by the Pope, but by the synod of bishops of the particular church. I hope these two churches will look into it,” said Thelekkat.

‘Synod’ refers to the governing body of a particular church.

Non-Catholic churches in Kerala continue to hold the ritual, limited to only men and boys.

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