Maundy Thursday: Wash our feet too, say women

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Mumbai:  Even amid cheer over the recent introduction of a national gender policy for the Catholic Church, parishes in Mumbai continue to tiptoe around the inclusion of women in the ceremony of the washing of the feet at Maundy Thursday mass.

The ceremony, a symbolic gesture, has the priest washing the feet of 12 males picked from the congregation, on Maundy Thursday.

"I feel it's a mockery of all that Jesus stood for. Who can serve better than a woman - be she a wife, a mother, daughter, sister or a working woman," said Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala.

There have been sporadic attempts to include women among the 12 people chosen that have met with resistance among traditional hardliners. "There were protests a few years ago when they tried to do this at the Orlem parish in Malad," admits the Mumbai Archdiocese's spokesperson Fr Anthony Charanghat. "But it's not an express rule that women can't be chosen. But yes, doing so does raise some eyebrows, as the disciples were all men."

One of those who did make an exception is Father Ralph Fernandes of the Our Lady of Mercy parish, Pokhran in Thane, which includes more than one woman among the twelve. "We choose one young, one middle-aged and an elderly man and woman each. We have also chosen two nuns," said Fernandes who first included a woman in the ceremony when he was at the IC church in Borivali, in 1986.

"Women form an equal and integral part of the society today, and our faith teaches us to be inclusive," he added.

What is Maundy Thursday?

In the Bible, Jesus Christ washes the feet of the 12 apostles before sharing bread and wine that Christians believe was changed in the body and blood of Christ. The meal is the inspiration for artist Leonardo da Vinci's famous piece of work, The Last Supper.


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