(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has issued a decree that changes the way that the Holy Thursday Rite of the Washing of the Feet is celebrated
The decree, that says the rite should include all members of God’s people, was published on Thursday by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and signed by the prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah.
Pope Francis also wrote a letter to Cardinal Sarah in which he says that “after careful consideration” he has decided to make the change to the Roman Missal.
Specifically he says the part that must be modified is the rubric which limits the Holy Thursday rite only to men.
So, according to the decree, the rubric will now read “Those chosen from among the People of God” instead of “The men who have been chosen”.
"Pastors - the modified decree reads - 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 lay people".
In the letter Pope Francis says he made the changes “so that it might express more fully the meaning of Jesus’ gesture in the Cenacle, His giving of Himself unto the end for the salvation of the world, His limitless charity”.
Please find below the Vatican Information Service' translation of the decree:
“The reform of the Holy Week, by the decree Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria of November 1955, provides the faculty, where counselled 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 lay people.
“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.”