The Roman Catholic Church changes its law to officially allow women to serve as readers, altar waitresses and distributors of communion.
In a step towards greater equality for women in the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis changed Church law to explicitly allow women to do more things during Mass, but reaffirmed that they do not. cannot be priests.
Francis amended the law on Monday to formalize what is common practice in many parts of the world: that women can read the Gospel and serve on the altar as Eucharistic ministers.
By introducing the change in the Code of Canon Law, it will be impossible for conservative bishops to prevent women in their diocese from assuming these roles. Previously, these roles were officially reserved for men, although exceptions were made.
In the decree, called Spiritus Domini (The Spirit of the Lord), Francis said he made his decision after a theological reflection and that he was making the change to increase recognition of the “precious contribution” of women in the world. ‘church.
He said that many bishops around the world had said the change was needed to meet the “needs of the times.”
But the Vatican stressed that these roles were “essentially distinct from the ordained ministry,” meaning they should not be seen as an automatic precursor for women to one day be ordained priests.
The Vatican reserves the priesthood for men.
“The pontiff has therefore established that women can access these ministries and they are assigned by a liturgical function which institutionalizes them,” the Vatican said in an explanatory note.
The changes come as Francis remains under pressure to allow women to be deacons – ordained ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests, such as presiding over weddings, baptisms and funerals.
Francis created a second expert study commission to study whether women could be deacons, after a first failed to reach consensus.
Advocates of expanding the diaconate to include women say it would give women more voice in church ministry and governance, while helping to address priest shortages in several parts of the world.
Opponents say allowing it would become a slippery slope toward the ordination of women to the priesthood.