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Ban on washing women’s feet

NEW DELHI (UCAN): The sticky issue of the washing of the feet of women at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday has raised its head again, this time in the Syro-Malabar Church in India.

George Cardinal Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Church,  said in a directive that the decision of its synod is to continue with its tradition of washing only the feet of 12 men or boys.

Last year, Pope Francis sparked a sometimes vitriolic polemic within the Church when he washed the feet of a Muslim woman. He later announced that ideally both the young and old, clerical and lay, sick and healthy, men and women should all be represented.

Although the pope was accused of breaking the law, more balanced analysis claimed that women were never barred from having their feet washed, as the directive only stipulated that 12 men or boys must take part, but did not exclude anyone.

The Syro-Malabar directive says that Pope Francis’ instruction only applies to the Latin Rite Church.

Reji Njallani, from a forum of Catholics working for the renewal in the Church, said the decision not to follow the pope’s directive “is part of the Church’s negative approach towards women. This is not only against the pope but also Jesus Christ.”

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