Pope changes church law for gender-friendly pre-Easter rite

Pope Francis is changing church law to correspond to his rule-breaking celebration of the Easter Week ritual of washing the feet of men and women, Christians and not, in a sign of universal service.

Vatican rules for the Holy Thursday rite had long called for only men to participate. Popes past traditionally performed the ritual on 12 Christian men, recalling Jesus' 12 apostles.

Shortly after he was elected, Francis raised conservative eyebrows by performing the rite on men and women, Christians as well as Muslims, at a jail.

The Vatican published a decree Thursday from the Vatican's liturgy office announcing that the rite can now be performed on anyone "chosen from among the people of God." It makes no mention of gender or religious affiliation.