Pope: Women must be included in Maundy Thursday foot washing

Pope Francis washing feet in a young offenders institution in 2013Reuters

Pope Francis has introduced another reform to the Roman Catholic Church – this time mandating that women should be included in the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday.

Most Catholic churches (as well as other denominations) will have a service on the day before Good Friday where the priest washes the feet of some in the congregation – in memory of Jesus washing his disciples' feet at the Last Supper.

Until this point, the ritual has technically been restricted to men. Although Pope Francis himself broke that during his first Holy Week as Pontiff – washing the feet of women and also Muslims – many dioceses around the world have restricted the foot washing to males only.

Now, the Pope has issued a decree which formally opens up the ceremony to all. He said, "After careful consideration, I have decided to make a change to the Roman Missal. I therefore decree that the section according to which those persons chosen for the washing of the feet must be men or boys, so that from now on the Pastors of the Church may choose the participants in the rite from among all the members of the People of God."

Although it isn't a major doctrinal change, it is indicative of the Pope's more inclusive approach to matters which don't concern fundamental Catholic teachings.

It has already been welcomed by a number of people in the Catholic Twittersphere:

With Lent fast approaching there will be speculation as to where the Pope chooses to celebrate Maundy Thursday this year, and who the receipiants of his foot washing may be.