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Pope Francis allows women to ministries of lector, acolyte

A lay woman reads at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City*

Pope Francis issued a motu proprio yesterday, changing canon law to allow women to serve as lectors and acolytes, the cbcpnews.net posted last night.

In the motu proprio “Spiritus Domini”, issued on Jan. 11, the pope changed canon 230 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law to read: “Lay people who have the age and skills determined by decree of the Episcopal Conference, can be permanently assumed, through the established liturgical rite, to the ministries of lectors and of acolytes; however this contribution does not give them the right to support or to remuneration by the Church”.

Before this change, the law said that “lay men who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte”.

The roles of lector and acoyte are publicly recognized ministries instituted by the Church. The roles were considered “minor orders” in the tradition of the Church, and have previously only been held by men. According to Church law, “before anyone is promoted to the permanent or transitional diaconate, he is required to have received the ministries of lector and acolyte”.

Pope Francis also wrote a letter to Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explaining his decision to admit women to the ministries of lector and acolyte.

In this letter, the pope highlighted the distinction between “‘established’ (or ‘lay’) ministries and ‘ordained’ ministries,” and expressed hope that opening these law ministries to women might “better manifest the common baptismal dignity of the members of the People of God”.

The pope noted that there is “an ever greater urgency today to rediscover the co-responsibility of all the baptized in the Church, and especially the mission of the laity.”

He said that the 2019 Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region “signaled the need to think about ‘new paths for ecclesial ministeriality,’ not only for the Amazonian Church, but for the whole Church, in the variety of situations”.

“It is urgent that they be promoted and confer ministries on men and women…It is the Church of baptized men and women that we must consolidate by promoting ministry and, above all, awareness of baptismal dignity,” Pope Francis said, quoting the Amazon synod’s final document.

It will be up to local bishops’ conferences to establish the appropriate criteria for the discernment and preparation of candidates for the ministries of lector and acolyte in their territories, the pope said. “Offering lay people of both sexes the possibility of accessing the ministry of the Acolyte and the Lectorate, by virtue of their participation in the baptismal priesthood, will increase the recognition, also through a liturgical act (institution), of the precious contribution that many lay people, even women, offer to the life and mission of the Church,” he added.*

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