The liturgical pharisees are about to go nuts.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis will break norms and be the first pope ever to wash the feet of women at a Holy Thursday Mass.
At a youth prison in Rome, Francis plans to wash the feet of ten men and two women (further reports are indicating several of these young people are Muslims and non-believers).
This seemingly settles a long-term controversy over whether or not women’s feet are allowed to be washed during the Mass’s mandatum rite.
This will be updated as more information becomes available.
[Updated at 1:30 PM]
There are reports from Italian media suggesting that several of these prisoners whose feet will be washed are Muslims and non-believers.
Here is the text regarding the mandatum rite (emphasis mine) that has been published by the Vatican:
Depending on pastoral circumstance, the washing of feet follows the homily. The men who have been chosen (viri selecti) are led by the ministers to chairs prepared at a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers he pours water over each one’s feet and dries them.”
In February 1987, in response to a question whether or not women could participate in the mandatum rite, the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship gave this vague response:
Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the “Teacher and Lord” who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.
While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (“viri selecti”), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love.
Given the same question on Thursday, Francis’s answer was simple: yes.
[Updated at 3:30 PM]
Photos have now emerged from today’s incredible ceremony. It appears that Pope Francis may have worn a deacon’s stole instead of a priest’s stole for the mandatum rite.