Pope Francis issued a decree in January that women should be included in the foot washing ritual on Holy Thursday. FutureChurch launched a survey March 28 to find out what, if any, effect the decree had on parishes. There were 620 respondents to this unscientific survey.
The first question asked respondents who was included in the Holy Thursday foot washing ritual prior to the pope’s decree. The majority, 71.78 percent, of respondents said both men and women were included. Eight percent said only men were included and less than 1 percent answered that only women were included.
"My parish did wash the feet of men and women, however, our Bishop [Thomas] Paprocki [of the Springfield, Ill., diocese] chose not to do the foot washing ritual because he disagreed with Pope Francis’ encouragement of it," one respondent said.
Less than one percent of respondents said their parish opted out of the ritual for the first time this year. Just over 6 percent of respondents said women were allowed for the first time while 72.34 percent said their church always included women.
"Our parish washed the feet of women, men and children. When we got a new bishop he demanded that only men could get their feet washed," said one respondent. "Our pastor stopped washing feet until Francis said it is okay."
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Respondents were asked if the changes to the foot washing raised awareness personally (34.70 percent strongly agree), if it raised awareness in the parish community (29.43 percent were neutral), if it was a source of concern or controversy (46.30 percent strongly disagree) and if there was little or no effect (34.38 percent strongly agree).
The pastor or priest didn’t explicitly address the inclusion of women in the ritual in 58.79 percent of responses. There were 11.73 percent of priests that did address the congregation and those that did address the change characterized it as positive, according to 12.47 percent of the respondents. Less than one percent of respondents said the priest characterized it as a negative change.
Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, includes additional information about the survey in her blog.