Pope Francis broke with Catholic Church tradition and washed and kissed the feet of two young women during the Holy Thursday Mass ritual that has always been confined to men.
The two women were confined at a juvenile detention center, The Associated Press reports.
Church traditionalists decried the move, and accused the pope of setting a “questionable example,” AP reports. Modernists, however, welcomed his action and perceived a church attitude of inclusiveness was on the horizon.
The foot-washing ceremony is rooted in biblical principle.
“This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service,” Francis told the group of juvenile offenders, aged 14 to 21, at the Casal del Marmo detention facility in Rome, AP reports..
“Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us,” the pope said. “This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service.”
Canon lawyer Edward Peters said the pope’s inclusion of women is setting the stage for confusion among church members, however.
“By disregarding hiw own law in this matter, Francis violates, of course, no divine directive,” Mr. Peters said, as quoted by AP. “What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example.”