The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has announced that the rubrics for the foot-washing rite in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper have been altered. In a decree dated January 6, 2016 (Prot. N. 87/15), the Congregation indicated that the description of the rite given in the Roman Missal, “The men who have been chosen are led to the minister…” (“Mass of the Lord’s Supper”, 11), has been changed to read, “Those who are chosen from amongst the people of God are led by the ministers….”
The Congregation noted that this change, made at the request of Pope Francis, permits pastors to select a small group of the faithful who represent the variety and unity of each part of the people of God to participate in the foot-washing rite. This small group “can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity.” In performing this rite, priests are invited to intimately conform themselves to Christ, who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28).
It should be noted that the number of persons to be selected for the foot-washing is left up to the discretion of the pastor. As well, this rite remains optional within the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and may be performed where pastoral reasons suggest its suitability. More information and additional commentary on this decree will be provided in the March edition of the Liturgy Office newsletter.