Pope Francis took another step towards greater equality for women in the Roman Catholic Church on Monday by changing its laws to formally allow them to serve as readers at services of worship, altar servers, and distributors of communion hosts, reports Reuters.
By issuing the papal decree, the pope formalised what has actually already been happening in many countries for years. But by introducing the change in the Code of Canon Law, it will make it impossible for conservative bishops to block women in their diocese from taking those roles.
However, the Vatican stressed that such roles were “essentially distinct from the ordained ministry”, meaning that they should not be seen as an automatic precursor to women one day being allowed to be ordained as priests.
“The pontiff, therefore, has established that women can accede to these ministries and they are attributed by a liturgical function that institutionalises them,” the Vatican said by way of explanation.
In the decree, called “Spiritus Domini” (The Spirit of the Lord), Francis said he had taken his decision after theological reflection.
He said many bishops from around the world had told him that the change was necessary to respond to the “needs of the times”.