Pope Francis Pope Francis Reformed Church Laws; Women Can Read Gospel But Cannot Become Priests

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In a decision that is being hailed as a step towards gender equality, Pope Francis reformed church laws by allowing women to perform more rituals during Mass. He said that women can now read Gospel and serve as Eucharistic ministers on the altar. Earlier, these duties were only performed by men. However, he also reaffirmed that this step doesn’t mean that women can become priests as the Vatican reserves priesthood for men.

As per a report, Pope Francis’ aim behind this step was to increase the recognition of women as they have made “precious contribution” in the church. Moreover, he also said that every baptized Christian has the rights to be a contributor to the church’s mission. He hailed this reform as a “need of the hour”.

The law was reformed on Monday, January 11, 2021, and if reports are to be believed, the practice of including women in church mission as Eucharistic ministers is already being practised in many parts of the world. Pope Francis’ official announcement of the reform in Code of Canon Law has formalised the practice.

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As an impact of this reform, no priest will be able to prohibit women from performing rituals during Mass.

However, Francis reiterated that this step should not be considered as a precursor to appointing women as the priests in the church. The increased participation of women in the church is “essentially distinct” from their role in ordained ministry or priesthood which remains reserved for men.

Appointment of women as deacons

This change in the law code follows the pressure on Pope Francis to allow women to be appointed as deacons in the church. Deacons are ordained ministers of the church who perform the same functions as the priest and this ministry is also lawfully reserved for men.

Francis had discussed the possibility if women can be allowed to be deacons in a commission but it failed to reach a final decision. People who support the inclusion of women as deacons believe that this step will give women more power and voice in governance. Moreover, it will compensate for the shortage of priests all over the world. In the last half-century, the number of priests in the U.S. has dramatically reduced by 38 per cent.

While the opponents of the move on the other hand believe that this step will act as a slippery slope towards appointing women as priests. So now Francis has set up another study commission to discuss the issue and reform.

Brief History of Struggles For Women Priesthood

Ordination of women as priests has a long history of failed struggles. Many Catholic reformers have protested in favour of appointing women as priests. In a 2010 poll conducted by New York Times and CBS, 59 per cent of American Catholics voted in favour of appointing women as priests.  However, the Vatican strictly refused the demands each time by imposing regulations on women who become priests.  In 2008, the Vatican ruled that any woman who seeks ordination will be excommunicated and in 2010, the Vatican ordered that it will categorise steps towards women’s ordination as “delicta graviora”, a crime against Church which is as bad as priests sexually abusing children. In 2016, Pope Francis prohibited women from priesthood forever.

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