Published on: 1:19 am, March 26, 2016 Story By: Lissy Maruthanakuzhy – Matters India
Nagpur: Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara of Nagpur created history by choosing six women among the 12 people for the washing of feet ritual on Holy Thursday.
“In a world where women and some people are debarred from public places of worship, the Catholic Church is open to all people,” the archbishop told the congregation in the St Francis de Sales Cathedral of Nagpur on March 24.
The prelate prepared the congregation for “some changes” in the services informing them in advance that he has chosen a priest, a nun, old and young people, a married couple, children and church workers.
He urged them not to look at the services as a mere washing of women’s feet. The people chosen for the ritual, he added, represented the various section in society,as instructed by Pope Francis.
“So we have a priest, a nun, old people, youth, married people, children and people who work in the parish.
He said the “very rich and heavily laden” services of Holy Thursday commemorate the launch of two sacraments – Eucharist and priesthood. They also reminded Christians Jesus’s command to serve all people.
He said he has washed the feet of “so many people” as a priest and a bishop, but hardly anything has happened to him. “The same may be true of hundreds of people whose feet I have washed over many years. Has any change taken place in their lives? God knows.”
The prelate recalled the sharing of a priest, who confessed that he had for years viewed Maundy Thursday’s washing ritual as hypocrisy. He admitted that he was “miles away from the attitude of Jesus” when he conducted the services.
Archbishop Viruthakulangara noted that in tribal culture women wash the priest’s feet. “They cannot think otherwise. But Jesus says to them as he told to Peter ‘If you want to belong to me you must allow me to wash your feet’.”
The Indian prelate explained that the Pope was not merely performing a formality by washing the feet of women and people of other faiths. “He did what he did in actuality. He went to the prison, to the destitute homes, to the streets and washed the feet of less privileged people. The formality that we are going to perform a little while from now should become an actuality.”
The archbishop urged people to take the washing of feet to homes, neighbourhood, to people of other faiths, the poor and the marginalized.
“Today it has to be different, we need to take decision that we want to be different, the service that Jesus asks to do, should be real and not lip service. The Eucharist has to be lived daily in personal lives, family in the neighbourhood. Then the change the Holy Father asks of us will be a real one.”
One of the women selected for feet washing was Missionaries of Charity Sister Magdalete. She told Matters that she had refused when the archdiocesan vicar general and the cathedral parish came to her convent to inform her. The priests told her the changes implemented reflected the mind of the Pope. “It was an experience for me. While the archbishop washed my feet I felt my sins being washed away. I also thought of our sisters who were martyred a few days ago in Yemen.”
Vicar general Fr Jerome Pinto said it was tough to convince women to come for the washing of the feet.
The other participants were a 10-year-old girl who received first communion this year, youth who received the sacrament of confirmation recently, a married person, an elderly woman and a domestic worker.