Once per year, during Holy Thursday Mass, this brief rite takes place.
It's known as the Washing of Feet. It recalls the gesture Jesus made before the Last Supper. At the time, it was a job reserved for slaves. But Jesus did it to show that he was giving himself entirely to humanity.
March 28, 2013
"What does this mean? That all of us must help one another. Sometimes I am angry with someone or another. Let it go. And if he or she asks you a favor, do it. This is what Jesus teaches us and this is what I am doing, and doing with all my heart, because it is my duty.”
Until now, priests needed special permission from their bishop to allow women to participate in the rite. During the last three years, Pope Francis has always included women in the rite, something he has done since he was in Buenos Aires.
Seeing good results, the Pope has decided that from now on, women can also participate without the need for special permission.
A letter from the Pope to Cardinal Robert Sarah, who is responsible for Catholic liturgy, explains:
"I have decided to make a change to the Roman Missal. I therefore decree that the section according to which those persons chosen for the Washing of the feet must be men or boys, so that from now on the Pastors of the Church may choose the participants in the rite from among all the members of the People of God.”
Pope Francis hopes that this will be a better way to show the meaning of Jesus' gesture, "his delivery to the end for the world's salvation, his charity without limits.”
It isn't the first time a Pope has changed this rite. It has evolved several times since the 12th century. In 1955, Pope Pius XII updated it. Pope Paul VI did so as well in 1970.