Thursday, January 21, 2016


Pope Francis initiated the change to the Roman Missal for Holy Thursday's Mass of the Lord's Supper which has as an option the washing of feet of 12 men, in December of 2014 in a letter to Cardinal Robert Sarah. Here is a rough translation of the original Italian and below the picture is the actual decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship (By the way it seems to me that the official decree refers only to the baptized being chosen [laypeople] and not non Catholics, although I suspect a catechumen could be chosen):

Your Eminence,

I take this opportunity to say to you that for  some time I have been reflecting on the rite of the "washing of the feet", contained in the Liturgy of the Mass of the Lord's Supper, in order to improve implementation of options, to express fully the meaning of this gesture by Jesus at the Last Supper, his self-oblation (self-giving, sacrifice) to the end for the salvation of the world, his charity without borders.

After careful consideration, I have come to a decision to make a change in the rubrics of the Roman Missal. Therefore I want  to be changed the heading (or rubric) under which the persons selected to receive the washing of the feet should be men or boys,  that from now on, the Pastors of the Church can choose the participants in the rite among all the members of the People of God. We also recommend that pastors are to provide an adequate explanation of the meaning of the rite itself.

Grateful for the valuable service of this Dicastery, I assure you, Your Eminence, to the Secretary and to all the collaborators of my remembrance in prayer and, as I express my best wishes for a Holy Christmas, I send to each one of you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 20 December 2014


The Pope decrees that not only men may be chosen for the washing of the feet in the Liturgy of Holy Thursday

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has today published a decree on the aforementioned rite, dated 6 January 2016, the full text of which is published below:

"The reform of the Holy Week, by the decree Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria of November 1955, provides the faculty, where counseled by pastoral motives, to perform the washing of the feet of twelve men during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, after the reading of the Gospel according to John, as if almost to represent Christ's humility and love for His disciples.

In the Roman liturgy this rite was handed down with the name of the Mandatum of the Lord on brotherly charity in accordance with Jesus' words, sung in the Antiphon during the celebration.

In performing this rite, bishops and priests are invited to conform intimately to Christ who 'came not to be served but to serve' and, driven by a love 'to the end', to give His life for the salvation of all humankind.

To manifest the full meaning of the rite to those who participate in it, the Holy Father Francis has seen fit to change the rule by in the Roman Missal (p.300, No. 11) according to which the chosen men are accompanied by the ministers, which must therefore be modified as follows: 

'Those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers' (and consequently in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum No. 301 and No. 299 b referring to the seats for the chosen men, so that pastors may choose a group of faithful representing the variety and unity of every part of the People of God. This group may consist of men and women, and ideally of the young and the old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople.
This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by means of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, introduces this innovation in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, recalling pastors of their duty to instruct adequately both the chosen faithful and others, so that they may participate in the rite consciously, actively and fruitfully".


Gene said...

Yawn...calling all Pushkins.

Jusadbellum said...

"The people of God" would not include non-Christians.

But of course we're going to invite non-believing people en masse, to Mass, to participate in a rite that has religious significance to us that they don't believe in, because for them it's about "inclusion" and feeling welcome into a community that has gathered to worship a deity that they don't believe in....?

Really, it's pretty muddle headed when you think about it. "Look at how humble I am" said no one who is actually humble.

If the point of Mass "these sacred mysteries" is to help us worship Jesus Christ then belief in Jesus Christ as Lord would seem to be a prerequisite. On the other hand, if the point of Mass is to generate GOOD FEELINGS of "inclusion" among all present such that the point of the exercise is NOT worship of God and incorporation into His Body but is rather merely about the horizontal community itself (Christ being the excuse not the point of the gathering), then of course the faith of the 12 people is of no consequence.

Here's what we ought to demand though: the most socially despised people ought to have their feet washed: arms merchants, polluters, dog and cock fighting organizers, pro-lifers, and others whom the world declares to be 'untouchables' and positively encourages all to heap scorn and hate upon.

If we are to prove anything about how 'umble' and 'merciful' we are as an awesomely awesome community who has gathered just to show off how awesomely awesome we are, then wouldn't calling up those generally loathed be a better sign than calling up women and other designated "victim" (i.e. highly favored and lauded) minorities?

It's no big sign of humility or courage or mercy or bravery to wash the feet of women and Muslims, prisoners, and illegal immigrants when the elites of our age are constantly telling us how awesomely awesome they are and how rot gut awful other groups of people are.

No, if you want to show off, then show off with the people really on the peripheries of polite society.

If instead the point is to showcase our commitment to Christ, in which we all submit to His Kingship and place ourselves before His throne together.... we will randomly select 12 actual Catholics and dispense with the circus of trying to show off our 'umility'.

Православный физик said...

Well, after 2 years of violating liturgical law, he changes it..., so no Mandatumgate iii, but this hardly looks humble at all

TJM said...

The dissenters and disobedient win again, That's how we got communion in the hand and altar girls.

Marc said...

Have you all forgotten that our "only certainty" is that "we are all children of God" regardless of our religion? The pope said this just days ago. Of course "people of God" is not limited to just baptized Caholics, according to the pope.

DJR said...

This doesn't affect me because we don't have "the washing of feet," but I wonder why anyone would feel compelled to follow the pope's directives when it is a demonstrable fact that he, when he was ordinary, was disobedient.

If he can flout the Church's liturgical laws established by popes when he was a mere priest or bishop, how could he complain if someone else decides to ignore rules he promulgates now that he is pope?

Seems to me it's a sauce/goose/gander thing.

Jacob said...

This will have no impact on traditional parishes. At my traditional parish ( and at all of them) we only have 11 men and one teenage boy (who represents Saint John)

Ryan Ellis said...

Exactly right on altar girls and communion in the hand. The only thing against the law is following the law. For that you get exiled.

Gerry Davila said...

So, if Priests start using the prayers at the foot of the altar, the little canon, the last Gospel, the ancient Collects, Ember days, Rogation days, and everything else traditional in the OF, would that disobedience be rewarded and confirmed as well?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Z notes, this innovation does not apply to the EF.

TJM said...

another liberal dictator in the Chair of St. Peter. The libs would have howled if John Paul II or Benedict XVI would have ordered changes that favored tradition. But if it favors the disobedient, well, that's just dandy. I stopped giving money to Peter's Pence after Francis' election. Hope the libs make up the difference because it's reputed they do their "charity" by way of taxes!

Anonymous said...

Catholic = Universal. Yes, we are ALL children of God.

James said...

I'm very happy with this, as it decreases the chances of a priest asking to wash my feet by at least 50%.

Gene said...

We are all children of God in so far as He created us. We are NOT all believers, however, nor are we all saved. Belief in the One God, the Father Almighty...the Trinitarian God, Incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth of the Virgin Mary is required for salvation, among a few other things. Do not plan on long conversations with Lao Tzu, Mohammed, or Bodhidarma if you make it to Heaven.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I wonder if Cardinal Sarah's and Pope Francis' timing of this is to coincide with the EF's Septuagesima pre-lenten season which starts this Sunday. The Ordinariate will join the EF in wearing violet and celebrating the three week season of Septuagesima, although the red headed step child of the Latin Rite, its Ordinary Form, will not have the privilege, but God willing Cardinal Sarah and Pope Francis will soon rectify and it could have been a double whammy, one for the progressives and one for the conservatives!

Marc said...

If we are all children of God, then someone forgot to tell Christ since he refers to some people as "children of wrath" and "children of the devil."

Anyway, Lao Tzu might be in heaven -- he lived before Christ and might've been one of the elect. Bodhidharma lived after Christ, but he lived in China at a time when that territory had not heard the Gospel.

Mohammed, on the other hand, carried on a decades long discourse with satan and invented a religion that is anti-christ. As the magic 8-ball would say, "Outlook not so good."

Vox Cantoris said...

I am disappointed, but not surprised. that Cardinal Sarah did not resign his Office in protest.

The Novus Ordo is irreformable. The Church is in a grave crisis. No Pope has ever modified the liturgy beginning with "I".

He is a Peronist and we have been abandoned by our Papa to the wolves!

Anonymous said...

I would be shocked to find out that Pope Francis is aware that this Sunday is Septuagesima Sunday.

Anonymous said...

The Son of Man is again betrayed with a kiss.

TJM said...

His faux humility is touching.

Anonymous said...

TJM, I believe there was communion in the hand at one time in the Early Church. At least that is what I recall from my book The Orthodox Church, 455 Questiona and Answers. Methods of distribution of communion have varied over the centuries---that is "small" T tradition, bot big T Tradition.

Rood Screen said...


There is no evidence for it as a usual practice in the Roman Rite.

Rood Screen said...

Since the rite itself is largely a 20th century innovation, it seems harmless to make this change. I'm more concerned about other liturgical issues. Perhaps Cardinal Sarah can now ask for further changes. The most useful would be insertion of rubrics directing the priest to face the altar cross when addressing God (the Communion Rite excepted).

Anonymous said...

While liturgy is important, I think the moral decay of the US---abortion and same-sex marriage---pose the greater threats to our well-being today. When you can't even get the Supreme Court to agree to an Arkansas law banning abortions at 12 weeks, or a Supreme Court that won't allow states to decide marriage (which traditionally has been a state, not a federal, function), well then, you know we're heading quickly down the slopes, with no brakes. 2016 election may be the last chance to help write the ship---elect Hillary or Bernie Sanders, and it may as well be "game over" when it comes to trying to preserve some reasonably conservative decorum in this country!

And what is really bad? Republican appointees to the Supreme Court helped create those morally disastrous rulings...Roe v Wade? Authored by Harry Blackmun, a Nixon appointee? The gay marriage ruling? Thank Anthony Kennedy for that---he was appointed by Reagan. Obamacare? Thank John Roberts (appointed by Bush the Second).

Gene said...

Look at them foot washers, ain't they a gas
Washing women's feet at Holy Thursday Mass.
Scrubbing them heels and washing them toes
This is a Church where anything goes.
Manicured toenails, ankle bracelets, too,
We'll be shaving their legs before this is through.
Bring that Holy Water, put it in a tub
Dump them women in and give 'em a rub.
Pat 'em down gently, dress 'em in white,
Put 'em on display on Easter Vigil night.
The Pope will be happy as he can be,
With this marvelous display of inclusivity.

Victor W said...

There is no more sacred space in a church, so in this free for all there is nothing wrong with this new permission. Traditionally, the altar rail separated the sacred space from the profane. Only men were allowed within the sanctuary during the Mass. But the Church of today has acquiesced to the world, with altar girls, women lectors, and now on Holy Thursday women having a role in the Mass at the altar.
Before Msgr Bugnini and his gangs of pseudo-experts starting tinkering, the foot washing ceremony was done outside of Mass, and always outside the sanctuary. That changed in 1955, when it became part of the Mass. That is all irrelevant today since without sacred space, there is no logical reason not to take that to its logical conclusion of having anyone, even pagans, to have a role in the Mass during the footwashing.
The problem is, however, with the number 12. That is symbolic of the 12 apostles which will now be an argument for women to be considered as apostles opening up the ministry of deaconess and priestess to them. That number 12 should be suppressed as well as only the priest doing the footwashing, and allow the whole congregation to wash each other`s feet.

Anonymous said...

The Blessed and Glorious Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope was the first Apostle.

There's nothing new under the sun...

Michael A said...

The practice should be stopped altogether; problem solved. I have no interest in seeing men or women getting their feet washed. Accomplishes nothing other than lengthening the service by about 12-15 minutes. It's not a required part of the service anyway. It would be good to invite Pope Francis to a Holy Thursday service where his "reform" is given it's due respect by eliminating the part. Maybe that will give him a sense of what people have experienced by the destruction of worthy traditions.

Anonymous said...

So it's perfectly legitimate for priests to continue to exclude females if they prefer to do so in defiance of the new rubric just like Francis violated the rubrics when he was a bishop and had no authority to do so. He did whatever he wanted to do so other priests can do as they see fit. Go it.

Anonymous said...

The whining on here is very much akin to the eldest son in the prodigal son parable. I hope none of these people are alive when we finally have a pope who will really abandons the Sheep. Pope Francis is small potatoes, in fact very small potatoes compared to what is historically considered a bad pope. Time for these people to act like real Catholics and stop their childish whining and persevere in prayer for the Holy Father. After we all die, we will see clearly how good or bad this pope is, so in the meantime let's be mature and trust in prayer and true faith in God.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The late Bishop Lessard as far back as i can recall, perhaps beginning in 1972 when he became bishop washed the feet of both men and women at the Cathedral's Holy Thursday Mass. However, he did not want 12 people. He only would have six. There is the symbolism of 12 apostles in choosing twelve men, but of course, the laity that are chosen are usually not priests, so that symbolism is lost too. I guess one could say the 12 symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel, but again Jews would need to be chosen.

The Pope has reinterpreted the liturgical meaning of this ritual. Unfortunately, the rubric should say that if all men are not chosen, then only 6 to 10 should be.

I am ambivalent about this ritual. In the context of Holy Thursday which as two official Masses, that of the Chrism Mass and the other of the Mass of the Lord's Supper, with the Chrism Mass celebrated first, is that Priesthood and Holy Eucharist were established on this day. But the Catholic priesthood in comparison to the Old Testament Priesthood is not primarily ritualistic and concerned with ritual purity or worried about becoming unclean by doing "dirty work" like cleaning feet, touching the poor and their wounds, forgiving sin and burying the dead by touching their bodies. These would have rendered the Old Testament priest ritually impure and thus incapable of carrying out his duties of offering sacrifice.

(I'm going to make this a post).

Anonymous said...

I think this is pretty mild compared to what is probably up the sleeve of the supreme legislator. But I have heard priests say they won't have the rite at all if expected to wash the feet of women. It has nothing to do with equality of women but is just another step in the downgrading of the priest. To expect celibate men to wash the feet of women only provides tittilation at Mass and to the world at large and serves no legitimate purpose. Personally, when I saw the Pope wash the feet of women I felt he demeaned the role of the papacy, and demeaned himself because and I regard it as impure for men to wash the feet of women who are not their wives or for women to wash the feet of men who are not their husbands. I think it is also a dangerous occasion of sin. Not many attend so a few more empty pews won't make a difference. I have not felt, like Fr McDonald, that Card Sarah is going to bring any major improvement to the Novus Ordo Mass. He is not in the mould of Card Burke or Bishop Schneider unfortunately. This decision has only served to confirm my view.

Martin Luther square, Martin Luther prayer, women deacons, married priests, devolving power to local bishops. There isn't much else left and it all started with Vat 2, which opened the door to the world. Don't worry, though, all this will be for a short term. A new Pope will be elected and there will be a major reform.

Anonymous said...

Father---correction: Bishop Lessard took over in Savannah in 1973, not 1972. His ordination took place April of that year. I think Bishop Frey has resigned in 1972 upon his transfer to a diocese in New Orleans, so the see was vacant for a few months between late 1972 and spring 1973.

Anonymous said...

"I regard it as impure for men to wash the feet of women who are not their wives or for women to wash the feet of men who are not their husbands. I think it is also a dangerous occasion of sin."

"You" regard it as impure. No one else does, except extremist Muslims agree.

"You" think it is a dangerous occasion of sin. No one else does, except extremist Muslims.

Now, Jan, what does that tell you about your opinions?

Anonymous said...

Chivalry requires that I state that Jan is not alone in her views. They are shared by thousands of faithful Catholics and other Christians.

Gene said...

Anonymous, you are wrong. It could very well be an occasion of sin...we got some pretty nice legs in our Church...them pretty little painted toes, the turn of a feminine ankle...skirt, bit of thigh...hey...maybe they should have Confession immediately after Mass.

Gene said...

Jan is a he. Probably Scandinavian.

Anonymous said...

Walking down the street could very well be an occasion of sin, but you don't lock yourself away in your house.

Signing on to the internet certainly can be an occasion of sin, but we do it over and over and over.

Hell, anything - going to Church where attractive people sit on either side, in front and in back of us can be an occasion of sin.

The argument that a man seeing a woman's foot is - GOD HELP US! - an occasion of sin is so far outside the realm of reality, it is laughable.

Heaven help the poor podiatrists who, every day, place themselves and their patients in danger of HELL by looking at and touching the feet of the opposite sex.

Silliness abounds.

Gene said...

Yeah, and just think about the gynecologists and urologists. Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

Gene, I am a woman and my full name is Janet. And Anonymous at 8:54 AM you have bought in to the new morality where anything goes. Nothing is sacred any more and look at the society we have because of it.

I know men who have stated they wouldn't want their wives feet washed and kissed by a priest and I agree with them. And Anonymous, whoever he or she is, can't speak for celibate priests - it may well be an occasion of sin for them and it may well be tittilating for those women who line up to get their feet washed and kissed by a priest.

As Anonymous at 10:49 says, many others share that view. Mine is the traditional view of the Church which upholds purity - not the liberal "anything goes" swing your hips at Mass and boogie on down attitude that you have obviously embraced.

I mean, imagine this sort of thing happening in a corporate business?
If an old man went around washing and kissing women's feet - I know just what he would be called by feminists. His reasons for doing so would not be considered merciful or charitable.

Gene said...

Jan, I apologize. For some reason I got the impression that you were a guy from Scandanavia. However, your writing and comments give us the best of both worlds...the sensitivity and perceptions of a woman and the no nonsense, straight up talk that we usually associate with males...all that and the devotion and Faith of a believing Catholic. Praise God!

Rood Screen said...


I, too, thought there was a "Jan" commenting here who was male and Polish (rather than Scandinavian).

Gene said...

Well, they need to make some distinction between themselves...maybe Janet and Jankowski, or something.