updated 4/30/2004 7:46:56 AM ET 2004-04-30T11:46:56

Boston Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley offered an apology to women for including feminism in a list of societal ills, and for his decision not to include women in a foot-washing ceremony.

O’Malley, in a letter published in Friday’s edition of The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, praised what he termed “Christian feminism,” and affirmed his support for the contributions of women in the church.

He also pledged to seek guidance on whether he should wash women’s feet when he visits the Vatican in August.

“I am sorry if this controversy has been upsetting to our Catholic women, and I hope that these reflections will help you to understand that I more than value the gifts and contributions that women make to our church and to my own faith life,” he wrote.

The controversy erupted on April 6 when during a homily, O’Malley said of the Baby Boom generation, “they are heirs to Woodstock, the drug culture, the sexual revolution, feminism, the breakdown of authority, and divorce.”

Two days later, O’Malley washed the feet of 12 men on Holy Thursday, breaking with the tradition of his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who washed the feet of men and women.

An O’Malley spokesman said the archbishop washed the feet of 12 men because Jesus’ apostles were 12 men, adding that parish priests were still free to wash the feet of men and women.

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