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In August 2004, “at the time of the ad limina visit to Rome, the archbishop sought clarification on the liturgical requirements of the rite of foot washing from the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has the responsibility for administering the liturgical law of the Church,” said an archdiocesan statement released in March. “The Congregation affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual, which recalls Christ’s service to the apostles who would become the first priests of the Church.”
“The Congregation did, however, provide for the archbishop to make a pastoral decision concerning his practice of the rite if such a decision would be helpful to the faithful of the archdiocese,” the statement added. “Archbishop O’Malley has determined that he will participate in a modified rite of foot washing at the Cathedral this year. The participants in the rite will include men and women from the Cathedral parish and from social service agencies providing support to community members in need.”
In a letter published in The Pilot last April, the archbishop responded to those who supported the washing of women’s feet, saying that for the last 34 years, he has washed the feet of 12 men, representing the 12 apostles, on Holy Thursday.
“It has never been an issue with my parishes,” he wrote. “Different people have different preferences, but all have respected my wish to follow the rubric.”
Archbishop O’Malley also responded to a statement he made in his Holy Thursday homily last year, about feminism being one of the influences on baby boomers.
“Feminism is a very elastic term, and I did not define it or try to categorize it. Other influences I mentioned were obviously negative, and so my comment was construed as an attack on feminism,” he wrote. “There is a feminism which is a Christian imperative and invokes promoting the rights and prerogatives of women, such as equal pay for equal work.”
The archbishop maintained that he has always supported equal pay for women, ran an underground railroad for battered and exploited women, has appointed women to the position of chancellor and defended the liturgical roles of women, including lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and altar servers.
“It has been my good fortune always to work closely with very strong women whose gifts have enriched my life and ministry,” he wrote.
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