01/11/2021, 17.02
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Pope: lector and acolyte ministries open to women

Francis has changed the rule in canon law that limited these offices to men. Thus, “the awareness will grow, through a liturgical act (of institution) as well, of the precious contribution that many lay persons, including women, have been offering for some time to the life and mission of the Church.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has institutionalised the service that women now normally perform during celebrations, by reading the Word of God or giving the Eucharist.

With the Apostolic Letter Spiritus Domini in the form of a Motu Proprio, the Pope modified Can. 230 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law, extending the instituted ministries of lector and acolyte to women, which were hitherto limited to men.

This practice was already in place for some time with the authorisation of local bishops. Now it is a rule of the entire Catholic Church.

The decision was made possible by the fact that the lector and acolyte ministries are not “ordained ministries”, thus overcoming the limit set by Paul VI in 1972.

In an explanatory letter to Cardinal Luis F Ladaria, SI, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and after citing the words of John Paul II that “with respect to ordained ministries, the Church does not have the faculty in any way to confer priestly ordination on women”, Francis writes that” regarding non-ordained ministries it is possible, and today it seems appropriate, to surmount this reservation.”

Francis adds that in so doing he is accepting the recommendations that emerged from various synodal assemblies, which recognise that “a doctrinal development has been reached in the past few years that has brought to light how certain ministries instituted by the Church have as their basis the common condition of being baptised and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.”

In short, rather than seeing the ministries of lector and acolyte as steps towards priestly ordination, Francis says that these are “fundamentally distinct from the ordained ministry that is received through the Sacrament of Holy Orders

“In light of the renewal set by the Second Vatican Council, there is an increasing urgency today to rediscover the co-responsibility of all the baptised in the Church, in particular the mission of the laity.

“The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region (6-27 October 2019), in the fifth chapter of its Final Document, indicates the need to think about ‘new paths for Church ministries’.” This is the case “Not only for the Amazonian Church, but also for the whole Church, in a variety of situations”.

According to the Final Document, “It is urgent for the Church in the Amazon to promote and confer ministries to men and women . . . It is the Church of baptised men and women that we must consolidate by promoting ministries and, above all, an awareness of baptismal dignity” (n. 95).

If we “offer lay persons of both sexes the possibility of accessing the ministries of acolyte and lector, in virtue of their participation in the baptismal priesthood, the awareness will grow, through a liturgical act (of institution) as well, of the precious contribution that many lay persons, including women, have been making for some time to the life and mission of the Church.

“For these reasons, I thought it appropriate to establish that not only men but also women could be instituted as lectors and acolytes, in whom, through the discernment of pastors and after adequate preparation, the Church acknowledges ‘the firm will to serve faithfully God and the Christian people,’ as written in the Motu Proprio Ministeria quaedam, by virtue of the sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation”.

“The decision to confer these offices even on women, which entails stability, public recognition and a mandate on the part of the bishop, will make everyone’s participation in the work of evangelisation more effective.

“This will also ensure that women have a real and effective impact on the organisation, the most important decisions and the leadership of communities, but without ceasing to do so in their own style and way.” (FP)

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