In January 2016, Pope Francis issued a decree revising the rules for the feet-washing ritual on Maundy Thursday, the Christian holiday which falls on the Thursday before Easter. The new rules said that the ritual should also include women and young girls, and cannot be limited to men and boys. Following the Pope’s declaration, several Latin Catholic churches included women in the ritual last year.
In Kerala, however, the Syro-Malabar Church’s supremo Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alenchery has said that the church will follow the Eastern tradition and will include only men in the foot washing ceremony.
A circular from Alenchery to all the Syro-Malabar Churches in Kerala said that the Syro-Malabar church had asked for a clarification from Rome about the decree passed by the Pope, and in the clarification, the Alenchery claims that the Pope’s decree was only meant to Latin Catholic Church, as it mentioned ‘Roman Missal'.
“So, this practice will not be applicable to Eastern Churches,” said the circular from Alenchery.
The feet-washing ceremony is held in memory of Jesus Christ washing the feet of 12 Apostles during the Last Supper.
The circular also said that the Syro-Malabar Church will make sure that feet of only 12 men will be washed during the age-old liturgical tradition as the Vatican has exempted Eastern churches from the new decree.
In 2016, a Syro-Malabar parish priest from Thrikkakara in Ernakulam had broken away from tradition and had washed the feet of 12 women on holy Thursday.