Pope Francis has changed Canon Law to allow women access to certain liturgical services previously reserved mostly for men. With a papal document called Motu proprio (Latin for: On one’s own initiative), the leader of the Roman Catholic Church has amended the first paragraph of the 230th article of Canon Law, officially establishing that from now on the positions of Lectors and Acolytes are open to laywomen as well, Vatican News reported.
In the Latin rite, the Lector is a person assigned to read Biblical texts, other than the Gospels, during a religious ceremony. The Acolyte assists the celebrant of the religious service at the altar.
In many communities throughout the world, laywomen have already been allowed to proclaim the Word of God during liturgical celebrations, carry out a service at the altar, and serve as Eucharistic ministers by assisting in the distribution of Holy Communion to the congregation. But these practices had to be previously authorized by local bishops.
“With the legal amendment of the Canon Law, the liturgical services open to women have now been institutionalized in a stable manner within the whole Church,” stated Angelo Lameri, liturgy professor of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in an explanation provided for the media. The scholar underlined that the papal measure is the result of a long process that began in the 1970s. “The institutionalization of liturgical practices for women does not mean that they can be ordained to serve as priests. This amendment is in fact a recognition of the role that worldly people have within the Church,” said professor Lameri, as cited by the Hungarian News Agency (MTI).
The importance of women acting as liturgical ministers was highlighted by the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region in 2019, urging for a solution for dioceses that do not have enough priests.
Pope Francis accompanied his Motu proprio with a letter addressed to the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, in which the theological motivations behind the decision are explained.
“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,” wrote Pope Francis, cited by Vatican News. Referring to the conclusions of the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region, the Pope observed that “regarding the variety of situations the Church faces, it is urgent that ministries for both men and women are promoted and conferred.”
Title image: Pope Francis says women too can read at mass and carry out altar services