The new pope has already done something none of his predecessors ever did: Yesterday, as he washed the feet of youths in a detention center, he included two young women—thereby violating liturgical rules, the AP reports. One of the women, the Telegraph notes, was a Muslim. "The pope's washing the feet of women is hugely significant because including women in this part of the Holy Thursday Mass has been frowned on—and even banned—in some dioceses," says a Jesuit priest.
"It shows the all-embracing love of Christ, who ministered to all he met: man or woman, slave or free, Jew or Gentile." A lawyer who advises the Vatican, however, was less impressed, saying the move "set a questionable example." Though the Vatican's spokesman acknowledged that in a "grand solemn celebration" of the rite, only men are included because Christ washed the feet of his 12 apostles, all of whom were male, he offered a practical point of view: "Excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all, in a group that certainly didn't include experts on liturgical rules."