Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Pope Opens Foot-Washing Ritual to Women", A New Beginning Moving Catholic Church Toward Inclusiveness? by Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

"The rules for the Holy Thursday foot-washing rite so that it can also include women, sources said Thursday. Priests can now choose participants from among "all God's people", the sources said. For Roman Catholics, the ritual is associated with the Last Supper, before which Jesus washed the feet of his 12 apostles.
    The pope, who has performed the foot-washing rite on women in Buenos Aires and in Rome, wrote to Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in December to request the changes. Cardinal Sarah has now decreed the necessary amendments to the missal. In his letter to the prelate Francis expressed his "intention of improving the way the rite is performed so that it fully expresses the meaning of the gesture carried out by Jesus during the Last Supper, his giving of himself until the very end for the salvation of the world, his boundless charity". He also asked for participants in the ritual to receive an adequate explanation of its meaning. In his reforming decree, Cardinal Sarah states that priests can now choose "a small group of faithful representing the variety and unity of every part of God's people", without specifying that there must be 12 participants as before. "In this way the desire is to express the fundamental significance of the gesture as being God's love for everyone and 'until the end'," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi explained."
    Bridget Mary's Response:

 I am grateful that Pope Francis is taking a small step toward a greater inclusiveness. St. Irenaeus is credited with the following quote: " the  glory of God  is man  fully alive." We could say the glory of God is woman fully alive!

 Award-winning contemporary theologian Elizabeth Johnson writes.  "the glory of God cannot be separated from the reign of God from the divine will that all should flourish. Consequently women draw hope that the last word in their lives will be uttered not by a pharaoh that sees them as a second sex or marginalized objects or subordinate auxiliaries, but by the liberating God of life whose preferential option affirms them precisely as women." Abounding in Kindness, p 148.

It is my hope that  Pope Francis' decision to  wash women's feet on Holy Thursday is a new beginning toward inclusiveness and toward  healing the  church's  patriarchal  treatment of women. However, until  the  institutional church treats women as equals in all areas of the church's life including decision-making and priestly ministry, women will remain second class citizens in our own spiritual home. 

 Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,

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