Catholic Teachings

educating Catholics all over the world

What does the “Foot Washing Ritual” on Holy Thursday mean?

Alternative Titles: Pedilavium, washing of feet.

Foot washing, also called washing of feet, a religious rite practiced by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week (preceding Easter) and by members of some other Christian churches in their worship services.

The early Christian church introduced the custom to imitate the humility and selfless love of Jesus, who washed the feet of the Twelve Apostles at the Last Supper (John 13:1–15), the night before his Crucifixion. The practice of foot washing was originally an act of hospitality in Palestinian homes, performed for guests (who wore sandals and walked on dusty roads) by a servant or the wife of the host. St. Paul refers to the custom in 1 Timothy 5:10, and St. Augustine mentions it in one of his letters (c. 400 CE). The Maundy Thursday ceremony, observed in Rome by the pope and locally in parish churches, first appeared in the Spanish liturgy of the 7th century. In 2016 Pope Francis changed the Roman Missal to permit the washing of the feet of women and himself washed the feet of migrant men and women from a variety of faiths for that year’s Maundy Thursday service at an asylum centre outside Rome.

In several European countries the monarchs or members of the royal family washed the feet of poor people and gave them gifts on Maundy Thursday.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
Encyclopaedia Britannica’s editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.

%d bloggers like this: