Monday, March 7, 2016

Syro Malabar Church NOT to wash women's feet on Holy Thursday 2016

The Major Arch Bishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of Kerala, Cardinal George Alencherry has made an announcement regarding the female participation in 'the washing of the feet ceremony' during the 2016 Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's last Supper. 

'Washing of the feet' (mandatum) is a custom practised by the Catholic Church, taking example from the 'Humble Act' of the Divine Master who surprised His 12 Apostles by kneeling before each and washing and kissing everyone's feet during His Last Supper with them on Holy Thursday, before His Great Passion and death on the Cross on Good Friday. This great exemplary act of the Greatest Master before His disciples to teach them to show in action the value of humility and love to one another is being carried out by His followers throughout the world. Ever since the last Supper of the Lord in 33 AD, in every Catholic Church, the heads of the Church starting from the Pope, Cardinals, bishops or Priests, this event is performed in memory of the Lord at His command. Such a rare ceremony is performed only in the Catholic Church under the sun where a master or teacher kneeling before his disciple and washing and kissing his foot.

Until recently in the universal Catholic church, representing the Lord's 12 disciples, 12 men were invited by the priest (celebrant of the Holy Mass) to participate in this ceremony. But during the Holy Thursday ceremonies of the present Pontiff Francis after his election as the Pope, he brought about a change in the customary practice and chose some abandoned and neglected persons from the society which included some prisoners and women. 

Later this year according to the suggestions of the Holy Father, the Roman Missal numbers 10 and 11 some slight changes were initiated. The earlier wordings on the 'washing of the feet' rite said, "The pre-chosen men are accompanied by the pastor (priest)". But after the editing, the word 'men' are modified to 'people' and the present text reads as "The pre-chosen among the people of God are accompanied by the priest".  This to include everyone for the washing of the foot rite without any gender discrimination. But it is misunderstood by some people as an order of the pope to include women compulsorily for this holy ceremony by giving 50 percent reservation to female gender. 

Putting an end to this confusion, the Head of the Syrian Catholic Church, Cardinal George Alencherry issued a statement that in the universal Syro Malabar Catholic Church, women will not be included or invited for the washing of the feet during the Holy (Maundy) Thursday services on March 24, 2016. The Arch Bishop made it clear that a decision on this regard will be taken in a Church synod to be held later this year.