TO THE EDITOR:
The celebrated female foot washing on Holy Thursday by Pope Francis has elicited glee among a number of Catholics who interpret this gesture to be the first step (no pun intended) toward the priestly ordination of women.
On the other hand, the cleansed female appendages have provoked near schism among some Catholic traditionalists – and for the very same reason. While some few priests, against clear liturgical guidelines, have employed the Holy Thursday foot washing as an opportunity “to make a statement” about the alleged lack of male/female equality within the church, our Holy Father was instead making a statement about mercy, compassion, and kindness.
Pope Francis did not wash of the feet of these young female prisoners simply because they were women (as happens in some parishes), he washed their feet because they were down-and-out, neglected and alienated persons. His was a gesture of compassion; certainly not a gesture of defiance. If any statement is being made, it is that Pope Francis will be focusing on the estranged and disaffected of this world regardless of race, creed, or gender.
Father John A. Kiley
Senior Priest, Diocese of Providence