ITALY

Pope upends church ritual

In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention center — a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men. No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis’ gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a “questionable example.” Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church. In a video released by the Vatican, the 76-year-old Francis was shown kneeling on the stone floor of the Casal del Marmo detention facility in Rome as he poured water from a silver chalice over the feet of a dozen youths: black, white, male, female, even feet with tattoos. Then, after drying each one with a cotton towel, he bent over and kissed it.

UNITED NATIONS

Congo mission authorized

The U.N. Security Council authorized a new “intervention brigade” for Congo on Thursday with an unprecedented mandate to take military action against rebel groups to help bring peace to the country’s conflict-wracked east. The resolution, which the council adopted unanimously, gives the brigade a mandate to carry out offensive operations alone or with Congolese army troops to neutralize and disarm armed groups. The brigade is unprecedented in U.N. peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate. The resolution, however, states clearly that it would be established for one year “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent” to the principles of U.N. peacekeeping.

KAZAKHSTAN

Soyuz capsule blasts off

A Russian spacecraft carrying a three-man crew blasted off today, for the first time taking a shorter path to the International Space Station. Instead of the two-day approach maneuver used by Soyuz spacecraft in the past, this journey to the station was to take NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin just under six hours. The new maneuver has been tested successfully by three Russian Progress cargo ships, an unmanned version of the Soyuz used to ferry supplies to the space station.

Compiled from wire reports.