Pope: Women Still Can't Be Priests, but They Can Read at Church

Francis changes law to allow women to take on more responsibilities during Mass
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 11, 2021 7:33 AM CST
Pope: Women Still Can't Be Priests, but They Can Read at Church
In this Dec. 21, 2020, file photo, Pope Francis exchanges holiday greeting with Vatican employees in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, file)

Pope Francis has changed church law to explicitly allow women to do more things during Mass, while reaffirming they can't be priests. Francis amended the law to formalize what's common practice in many parts of the world: that women can read the Gospel and serve on the altar as Eucharistic ministers. Previously, such roles were officially reserved for men, even though exceptions were made. Francis said he was making the change to increase recognition of the "precious contribution" women make in the church, while emphasizing that all baptized Catholics have a role to play in the church's mission, per the AP. But he also noted that doing so further makes a distinction between "ordained" ministries such as the priesthood, and ministries open to qualified laity. The Vatican reserves the priesthood for men.

The change comes as Francis remains under pressure to allow women to be deacons—ordained ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests, such as presiding at weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Currently, the ministry is reserved for men. Francis has created a second commission of experts to study whether women could be deacons, after a first one failed to reach a consensus. Advocates for expanding the diaconate to include women say doing so would give women greater say in the ministry and governance of the church, while also helping address priest shortages in several parts of the world. Opponents say allowing it would become a slippery slope toward ordaining women to the priesthood.

(Read more Pope Francis stories.)

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