From The Washington Post:
In her 50th Easter season as a nun, Sister Antonia Sanchez participated in something new. For the past 49 years, since she joined the order of Religious Mary Immaculate at age 16, Sanchez has watched priests wash the feet of men on Holy Thursday. This week, Sanchez was before the altar herself at the nation’s preeminent Catholic shrine. She was the one removing her shoes and socks. And then the pope’s representative to America washed her feet. This was the first Easter since Pope Francis decreed in January that priests can include women in the foot-washing ritual, one of the most moving rites of the holiest week on the church’s calendar. The change had already happened in some churches, but since Francis made it official, it is now spreading worldwide. Sanchez has been waiting for this for half a century. “I said, ‘Maybe sometime,’” she said. “This is the first time the pope said this opportunity has to be for ladies too. In this moment, I feel I’m privileged.” …Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who is the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, spoke about the rite in his homily. “By cleansing their feet, he demonstrated his desire to cleanse their souls of sin,” he said. “Only God stooping down to us can lift us up.” …The Rev. Michael J. Flynn, the secretariat of divine worship at the USCCB, said his organization does not track how many of the tens of thousands of parishes in the U.S. wash men’s or women’s feet, or include foot-washing in their Holy Thursday observance. But he said that nearly every parish does choose to perform the well-liked rite, and the new guidelines will likely spur holdouts to start including women if they did not before. “Given the understandable publicity over this recent change, it seems to me that there will be a certain level of expectation in most areas that both women and men will be included in the Washing of the Feet,” Flynn wrote in an email. “Like any change in our rituals, this alteration invites us to reexamine why we do it to begin with…. Perhaps part of Pope Francis’s motivation for altering the ritual is to remind us exactly who our neighbors are, whom we are called to serve.”
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Photo: Vatican Radio / ANSA