Catholic Churches Divided On Including Women In Age-Old Tradition Of Feet Washing

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Latin catholic churches across India have included women in the ceremonial washing of feet.


Kochi:  At the George Francis Assisi Cathedral in Kochi, hundreds of believers witnessed for the first time the Archbishop washing the feet of women as part of Maundy Thursday rituals followed by traditional churches. Maundy Thursday is celebrated in remembrance of Jesus Christ washing the feet of his 12 disciples before his crucifixion.

Breaking away from the centuries-old tradition, Latin catholic churches across India have included women in the ceremonial washing of feet observed on Maundy Thursday, a day before Good Friday.

The ritual observed across catholic churches, traditionally involved priests washing only the feet of 12 men in their churches. But despite a papal decree by Pope Francis asking churches to be more inclusive, several catholic churches have defied the decree, keeping women out. The Pope himself created a storm in 2013, when he washed the feet of women and non-Christians.

Christian women organisations held symbolic feet washing ceremonies in various parts of Kerala, protesting against the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar factions of the catholic churches which did not include women.

"Oriental churches have taken an exception not to humanism but only to the practice of ceremonial cleansing because including women is not part of the oriental school of theology," Father Paul Thelakkat told NDTV.

But the followers themselves have been having mixed reactions. Anu Paul, witness to the first inclusive ceremonial washing at her church said, "I don't think this should happen. Equality is okay, but this is tradition and women should be kept out of this."

Another devotee in his 20s, Jacob Binny, welcomed the move saying, "This symbolises equality of women and should be encouraged by all churches."


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