Pope Francis has changed article 230, paragraph 1 of the Code of Canon Law, to allow women to exercise the stable ministry of reader and acolyte, a role reserved until now for men, thus giving them functions at the altar.
Francis explained in the apostolic letter ‘Spiritus Domini’ in the form of Motu Proprio, published this Monday by the Press Office of the Holy See, that his decision is the result of a “doctrinal development” that has occurred in recent years, which distinguishes certain ministries for which it is necessary to have been ordained a priest, from others whose unique condition is to be baptized.
“Lay ministries, based on the sacrament of Baptism, can be entrusted to all the faithful who are suitable, male or female”, the Holy Father has clarified.
In this way the new statement of the ecclesial norm is the following: “The laity who have the age and conditions determined by decree of the Episcopal Conference, may be called to the stable ministry of reader and acolyte, through the prescribed liturgical rite; without However, the collation of these ministries does not entitle them to be supported or remunerated by the Church. “
With this new instruction from Bergoglio, women will be able to act as an acolyte, which is that person who, without having clerical orders, can act in extraordinary situations as a minister, administering the Eucharist and fulfilling functions at the altar. In the past, this ecclesial role was already open to lay men.
Their role, which is different from that performed by altar boys, has traditionally been to collaborate with the priest or deacon at Mass and other celebrations of the liturgy. In special situations, they can even give communion if there are a large number of communicants or if the minister is absent.
For its part, the role of the reader has always been necessary since the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments have always been read in the church either during Mass or in other offices. For the ministry of reader a double instruction is required: biblical and liturgical.
The Vatican has specified in an editorial published in its media that the fact that women read the Holy Scriptures during liturgical celebrations or that they carry out “a service at the altar” is nothing new. “In many communities around the world they are already a practice authorized by the bishop,” the editorial reads. Although, these realities occurred without a “true institutional mandate”, according to the Vatican.
The pontiff has taken this decision after, in several Synod Assemblies, where the bishops of the Church meet to debate on certain issues, the “need to deepen doctrinally in this argument has been evidenced” to offer support to evangelization.
For example, the Synod on the Amazon held in October 2019 proposed new paths of Evangelization to overcome the geographical challenges of this territory of more than 7,000 million square kilometers, characterized by difficult access to the places where indigenous communities live.
In some areas, in fact, missionaries and religious in the area can take up to three days to get through rivers; and the lack of priests prevents these communities from accessing the Eucharist.