VATICAN CITY, January 23, 2022- Pope Francis conferred on Sunday the lay Roman Catholic ministries of lector and catechist on women, roles that previously many had done without institutional recognition.
At a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, he cited conservatives’ opposition to change to people who must adhere to stricter regulations and “more rules” in order to find God.
Francis changed his Law on the ministries of lector and acolyte last year, which primarily had been reserved to seminarians in preparation for the priesthood, stating that he wanted to give public recognition to those who have served in the roles.
Lectors read from scripture, acolytes serve at Mass, and catechists teach the faith to children and adult converts.
The ministries of lector and acolyte existed before, but they were officially reserved for men. Francis established the catechist ministry last year.
At Sunday’s Mass, Pope Francis elected six women and two men as lectors, and three women and five men as catechists. Francis gave a bible to each lector and a crucifix to each catechist.
Despite the formalization, including a conferral ceremony, conservative bishops will be unable to take on these positions.
The move will be especially important as recognition for women in places such as the Amazon, where some are de facto religious leaders of remote communities are inundated by a severe shortage of priests.
The Vatican stressed that women may be allowed to become priests one day. The Catholic Church believes that only men can be priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.
The female priesthood is saying that Jesus was in accordance with the customs of his times and that women played a bigger role in the early Church than the common.
Several women have been appointed to senior positions in Vatican departments previously held by men.