According to the liturgy secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, priests should not imitate Pope Francis and wash women’s feet, The Tablet reports. The pope’s actions caused much comment because the liturgical books only allow men’s feet to be washed. Pope Benedict washed the feet of men initially, and then switched to the practicing of washing the feet only of priests.
Fr. Paul Gunter stressed that papal liturgy should not be seen as the exemplar for other liturgies. “It is precisely because the papal liturgy is a distinct reality in itself, that local churches [cannot] call on its precedent to dispense themselves from norms that apply to the whole Church,” he said.
He said further, “While it is known that there exist, in some parts of the Church, those who extend the rite of the mandatum [foot washing] to women, contrary to the liturgical norms contained in the liturgical books, … such indications, nonetheless, pertain to different conversations about ecclesiological perspectives regarding the magisterial authority attached to authorized liturgical books.”
Fr. Paul Gunter OSB, is secretary of the Department for Christian Life and Worship, and professor at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome.