Pope Francis ups Women’s Role in Catholic Church

Pope Francis ups Women’s Role in Catholic Church

Pope Francis has changed the rules of the Roman Catholic church, allowing women to serve as readers and distributors of communion during masses.

According to the official Vatican media, the change will prevent conservative bishops from blocking women from such roles and was in pursuit of equality.

But the Vatican clarified that the roles were fundamentally different from allowing women to be ordained as priests, something that remains not allowed.

The Vatican stressed that these lay roles—officially called as lector and acolyte—were “essentially distinct” from the ordained ministry of the priesthood.

The news site said that women had been performing some of these duties for years under the authorization of local bishops, but had lacked a full papal mandate until now.

“Within the spectrum of renewal traced out by the Second Vatican Council, the urgency is being ever more felt today to rediscover the co-responsibility of all of the baptized in the church, and the mission of the laity in a particular way,” Vatican News quoted the pope as writing in a letter setting out his decision.

According to Francis, many bishops from around the world had said that the change to the Code of Canon Law was necessary to respond to the needs of times.

At present, the ordained ministry is reserved for men but the lack of deacons—or those who perform many of the same functions as priests, such as presiding over weddings, baptisms, and funerals—amid the lack of men to perform such duties.

The Pope has reportedly created a second commission of experts to study whether women could serve as deacons after the first one failed to reach a consensus.

Advocates for expanding the diaconate to include women were quoted as saying that doing so would give women greater position in the ministry and governance of the church while also helping address priest shortages in several parts of the world.

Meanwhile, opponents said that allowing so would become a slippery slope towards ordaining women to the priesthood.

Photo by Joanne Girardo/Flickr

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