Pope Francis: papal feet washing sparks fears over women priests

The Guardian (UK)

Lizzy Davies in Rome
guardian.co.uk, Friday 29 March 2013

Traditionalists in the Roman Catholic church have expressed concern after Pope Francis became the first pontiff to wash the feet of two women during a Maundy Thursday mass, a move liberals welcomed but some conservatives feared set a worrying precedent.

At the Casal del Marmo youth detention centre on the outskirts of Rome, the Argentinian pope washed and dried the feet of 12 inmates as part of the traditional rite representing Jesus’s final act of humility towards his disciples.

He had surprised the Vatican with his decision to wash the prisoners’ feet – a move that echoed the early years of John Paul II, who once performed the rite in the St John Lateran basilica with a dozen homeless men.

But it was his inclusion of two young women, as well as Muslims, in the ceremony that was the most dramatic break with tradition. It even caused some traditionalists to wonder openly whether Francis, who is doctrinally a theological conservative who has explicitly stated he is against female ordination, might one day be willing to open the priesthood to women.

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