Target: His Holiness Pope Francis
Goal: Commend Pope Francis for making a symbolic statement of inclusivity during the annual Holy Thursday washing of the feet.
A ceremonial washing of the feet is customary in Catholic dioceses across the world, and the Vatican is no exception. In a significant break with tradition, however, the newly-ordained Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve incarcerated youths, including two women, instead of twelve priests. The pope’s move has raised eyebrows and even garnered criticism from many areas, but his act of humility and inclusiveness is worthy of praise, not censure. Sign the petition and express your support for the Pope’s unprecedented action.
The washing of the feet is a traditional part of Holy Thursday mass, and is meant to recall Jesus washing the feet of his apostles on the night of the Last Supper. The act is a ceremonial representation of love, humility, and service to others. In accordance with this principle, Pope Francis eschewed the traditional recipients of the foot-washing ceremony–fellow priests–and instead traveled to Rome’s Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility. There he washed the feet of twelve offenders between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one–Christian and Muslim, black and white, male and female.
The Pope’s break with tradition has been denounced by some conservative Catholics, who claim that those who support the move are only trying push the issue of female ordination. But in this context, the issue of female ordination is neither here nor there–what matters is Francis’s symbolic acknowledgement that people of all races, creeds, and genders are equally worthy of service and respect.
Francis’s break with tradition is a promising sign that he will carry out his pledge to cut through the tangle of Vatican politics to focus instead on spreading messages of love and devotion to God. “Jesus teaches us [to help one another],” Francis told the prisoners. “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.”
Thank the Pope for setting a positive example with such a simple act. Sign the petition and commend Francis’ nontraditional move.
I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for your break with tradition for the Holy Thursday washing of the feet ceremony. Washing the feet of prisoners instead of priests serves as a poignant reminder of Jesus’ humble devotion to serving others. The inclusion of women and non-Christians in the ceremony also sends a strong message about love and service to all, not just a select few.
In a time when many Catholics feel alienated or ignored by the Church, a simple act like this one affirms what Catholicism aims to be at its best: a celebration of love, humility, service, and respect. It eschews Vatican politics and an increasingly tangled bureaucracy and gets at the core mission of Catholicism: to follow the example set by Jesus Christ.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40)
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