EWTN Catholic Q&A
Footwashing of Muslims
Question from Nancy on 04-02-2013:

Should Pope Francis have touched the foot of a Muslim girl? I have worked with Muslim women and learned to err on the side of caution regarding any physical contact. While I'm sure our Holy Father meant no disrespect, will others, particularly those who seriously practice their Muslim faith, see it that way?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 04-03-2013:


I'm certain that Pope Francis, who recently prayed a blessing silently rather than offend the consciences of non-Catholics present, respected the consciences of the young people whose feet he washed. No doubt those chosen were free to decline to participate if they could not do so in good conscience. And if that is the case, then the theoretical offense to non-involved third parties is that third party's own problem and that person should be firmly reminded that the matter is none of his business.

As for your own job, you are indeed correct to err on the side of caution regarding physical contact, not just with Muslim women but with anyone. Unless there is some kind of emergency that prevents it, every person has the right to grant permission before being deliberately touched by a stranger.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers