.- After angering women during Holy Week last year, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley decided that he will wash the feet of women and men Holy Thursday, after having consulted with the Vatican, reported the Boston Globe. According to the archbishop’s spokeswoman, Ann Carter, the Congregation for Divine Worship “affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual."
However, it said the archbishop could make a pastoral decision that is best suited for his diocese.
The archbishop’s decision drew praise from advocates for a greater role for women in the Church.
Lisa Sowle Cahill, a professor of theology at Boston College who has written about feminist theology, said the archbishop’s decision “will be a wonderful sign, an appropriate Easter sign of hope and unity."
She said the decision indicates that a church leader “is willing to become more flexible about liturgical roles for women.”
The lay reform group Voice of the Faithful also welcomed the archbishop’s decision.
The Roman Missal uses a Latin word for man when describing participants in the foot-washing ceremony. But the U.S. bishops conference in 1987 declared that ''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."
Archbishop O’Malley said he has always followed the liturgical directive and has, for the last 34 years, only washed the feet of men on Holy Thursday.
“It has never been an issue with my parishes,” he said.
However, when his practice became an issue in Boston last year, he promised to consult with Rome for this year’s service.