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Rome Reports

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Pope officially allows women to take on roles of "lay ministries" such as acolytes

With this Motu Proprio Spiritus Domini, the pope officially allows women to be part of the acolyte and lector ministries.

The “acolyte” is the altar servers’ ministry, who helps the deacon and the priest at the altar. In extraordinary cases, they can distribute communion.

The “lectorate” is the ministry of one who reads the Scriptures in the liturgical assembly.

The Vatican clarifies that it is not a step towards the priestly ordination of women, but a gesture to strengthen the role of the laity. In fact, with the publication of this change, Pope Francis recalls “The Church does not consider itself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.”

July 28, 2013
“As far as the ordination of women, the Church has already spoken out, and the answer is no. John Paul II made the Church’s stance definitive. The door is closed. But let me tell you something, Our Lady, was more important than the apostles, bishops, deacons, and priests. Women play a role that’s more important than that of bishops or priests. How? This is what we have to explain better.”

Paul VI began this process by specifying the liturgical functions that could be performed without being a priest.

Pope John Paul II said that both men and women could be lectors and altar servers. However, the Code of Canon Law states that “men” may perform this service.

Pope Francis has substituted the word “men” for “laity” to clear up any doubt about his predecessors’ intention.

He did something similar in 2016 when, through a decree, he clarified that the celebrant can also wash women’s feet during the Holy Thursday ceremony.

Javier Romero

Translation: Christian Campos