Pope Francis Catholic Church of England and Wales-CC

Pope Francis changed decades of Catholic tradition today, declaring women can now be included in an annual Easter week ritual which formerly included only men.

The pope’s foot-washing ritual this year also included Hindu and Muslim refugees – a first for any pontiff.


The foot-washing ceremony, added to Catholic liturgy in the 1950s, commemorates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. Each year since, the pope and Catholic priests around the world have repeated the ceremony with their congregations, but included only men.

The pontiff departed Catholic tradition in 2013 by including women, and they were juvenile inmates at a nearby detention center.

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This year, the Pope Francis has made the inclusion of women in the ceremony part of the “Roman Missal,” the book that guides worldwide Catholic practices.

“After careful consideration”, Francis said, “I have decided…that from now on, the pastors of the Church may choose the participants in the rite from among all the members of the People of God.”

Francis may be suggesting that those “People of God” might even include non-Catholics in the future. He’s chosen to include Orthodox, Muslim, and Hindu refugees in the foot-washing ritual today.

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He traveled to a center outside Rome that supports asylum seekers and refugees to perform the Holy Thursday ceremony.

Eleven of the 12 people chosen for this year’s ceremony are migrants or refugees. They included three women — all Coptic Christians — along with three Muslim men and one Hindu man.

(WATCH the video below, or Read more at The Telegraph)

–Photo: Catholic Church of England and Wales, CC

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