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Fr. Awte Weldu wrote:

Hi, guys —

Holy Thursday 2015 is approaching. Many, many people ask questions about whether on Holy Thursday we have to wash the feet of both men and woman or, as the instructions say, vir selecti only.

I would appreciate if this question were answered as soon as possible; clearly and authoritatively, so that every arbitrary introduction of various practices will be ruled out and all of us follow one and unique guideline.

Thanks a lot.

Fr. Awte

  { Authoritatively, should the feet of men and women be washed during Holy Thursday services? }

Mike replied:

Dear Fr. Awte,

Thanks for the good question.

We have addressed this question in the past with various views. We also have a posting from our searchable knowledge base.

There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try.

I searched the knowledge base for you and found this web posting that should answer your question:

Certainly, Pope St. John Paul II would say, No, based on what he said in his:

1995 Holy Thursday Letter to Priest [Vatican][EWTN]:

In the last paragraph, #7, he says:

7. In that Dogmatic Constitution, the chapter on the People of God is followed by the one on the hierarchical structure of the Church. Here reference is made to the ministerial priesthood, to which by the will of Christ only men are admitted. Today in some quarters the fact that women cannot be ordained priests is being interpreted as a form of discrimination. But is this really the case?

Certainly, the question could be put in these terms if the hierarchical priesthood granted a social position of privilege characterized by the exercise of "power". But this is not the case: the ministerial priesthood, in Christ's plan, is an expression not of domination but of service! Anyone who interpreted it as "domination" would certainly be far from the intention of Christ, who in the Upper Room began the Last Supper by washing the feet of the Apostles. In this way he strongly emphasized the ministerial character of the priesthood which he instituted that very evening. "For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

Pope Benedict tended to have a different view held by pastors and priests today where the washing of the feet is applied to both men and women as a symbol of service to the Church by all lay Christians.

This is not a doctrinal issue but one dealing with a proper pastoral practice.

I strongly agree with Pope St. John Paul II's view on this issue and personally think it scandalizes what should be a night where we celebrate the institution of Holy Orders or the ministerial priesthood, along with the Eucharist.

Holy Thursday is a sacred night where we celebrate the ministerial priesthood, not the universal priesthood, we share in Jesus' Name.

If the Church wishes to celebrate the universal priesthood we share with Jesus, I would suggest doing it on a feast day like the Baptism of Our Lord.

I hope, in the future, the Church will require a change in the pastoral practices on this Holy Night.

  • What signal are we sending to future priests, when their own pastors are dumbing down the institution of the priesthood by Jesus to appease woman parishioners who probably don't understand why only men can be priests?

  • Did St. Ignatius of Antioch (107 A.D.) or St. Polycarp back down to appease others for convenience?

That's my view.


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