April 3, 2017
Catholic Church Gender Equality: Pope Francis Opens The Doors To Women With Foot-Washing

The Catholic Church has seen a lot of changes in the last few years. Many of these changes came about due to the persistence of Pope Francis, probably one of the most radical leaders of the Church in decades. The word "radical" might have negative connotations, but in this case, it simply means his actions were highly unusual, though inclusive.

The Pope was one of the first to tell the religious masses to put aside their judgments and love each other. This is actually in the Bible, but it seems most Christians and Catholics have forgotten that part in favor of finding fault in everyone. Forgiveness is almost a lost art in this age of taking offense at the slightest of injustices, but Pope Francis appears to be attempting to bring it back.

Of course, one thing the Catholic Church still doesn't condone is using protection during sex, feeling that life is sacred, even in its earliest form. The Pope hasn't given in on that, even at the risk of contracting HIV. He has, however, said it's okay to use a condom to protect yourself from the recent outbreak of the Zika Virus.

The Zika Virus has been deemed no more dangerous than the common cold, though if contracted during pregnancy, it can cause birth defects including a smaller head than normal.

Pope Francis has even opened the doors to gay and divorced people, saying that they're still people deserving of love. While the Catholic Church may look down on such people due to religious beliefs that homosexuality and divorce are sins, the Pontiff is remaining inclusive.

This isn't stopping some Catholics from acting out of judgment, though, as a recent high school basketball game erupted in chants directed at their Jewish opponents, "You killed Jesus." Even Chuck Lorre's The Big Bang Theory addressed this age-old conflict in an episode where Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) went into one such church and remarked, "I'm just trying not to burst into flame."

This past January, Pope Francis made a further gesture toward gender equality by allowing women to take part in the foot-washing rite. It has reportedly been done in the Catholic Church before, but not at this level. On Holy Thursday, he made it official by giving Sister Antonia Sanchez the honor of being the first woman to receive the foot-washing at Religious Mary Immaculate, under the supervision of the Pope.

Sanchez felt it was a great honor, "I said, 'Maybe sometime.' This is the first time the Pope said this opportunity has to be for ladies too. In this moment, I feel I'm privileged."

Pope Francis has also drawn attention to the gender wage gap, a problem which Hollywood shares and actress Jennifer Lawrence brought to light in the past year. There is still room for further inclusion of women in the Church, as Pope Francis has stated that they still can't be priests, despite the insistence of the Women's Ordination Conference.

A steadfast conservative, Cardinal Robert Sarah is head of the liturgy office and also feels the inclusion of women in the Catholic Church has a long way to go. "Our prayer during this Year of Mercy is that the inclusion of women in the church not stop at our feet, but will be one of many signs to include women fully in the institutional church."

This Easter week has shown one of the biggest changes to the rules of the Catholic Church, and while it is progress, there is still room for more.

[Feature image via Franco Origlia/Getty Images]