Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome and the head of Vatican Church, has changed the church law Monday affirming that the women would now be allowed to read gospels at the Mass, a role which was officially reserved for men, accept few exceptions. However, they would still not serve as priests in churches.
It is pertinent to note here that in the Roman Catholic Church, the priesthood is seen as an exclusively male preserve. Women are not allowed to be ordained as priests.
Meanwhile, in the decree, called Spiritus Domini (The Spirit of the Lord), Pope Francis said he had taken the decision after theological reflection and was making the change to increase recognition of the “precious contribution” women make in the church. However, Pope Francis stressed that these 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, priests. The Vatican reserved the priesthood for men.
“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 in an explanatory note.
Pope Francis under pressure to allow women to be deacons
The change comes as the Pope remains under pressure to allow women to be deacons, (the ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests, such as presiding at weddings, baptisms and funerals), the position which is currently reserved for men even though historians say the ministry was performed by women in the early church.
According to reports, after the first commission failed to reach a consensus on whether women could be deacons, Francis created a second commission to look into the matter. While those in favour of expanding the diaconate to include women say, doing so would give women a greater say in the ministry and governance of the church, while also helping address priest shortages in several parts of the world. However, the ones opposing the stand opine that allowing it would become a slippery slope toward ordaining women to the priesthood.