La Civilta Cattolica has published an important article by Father Cesare Giraudo, SJ, reflecting on Pope Francis’s decision to officially include women in the ministries of instituted acolyte and reader.
The article, “The Ministry of Women in the Liturgy: ‘Sound Tradition’ and ‘Legitimate Progress’,” examines the role of lay people in temple worship and the early church, before moving on to describe the situation in the post-patristic church and the reforms of Paul VI at the time of the Second Vatican Council. This then provides the background for discussion of the present time, in which Pope Francis has reformed these roles, moving them from “restricted ministries” to “open ministries” available to both lay men and women.
Applying categories from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Father Giraudo argues that “Pope Francis, while respecting ‘sound tradition,’ has nevertheless opened the way to ‘legitimate progress.'”
In a way that perhaps anticipates the coming conference on priesthood to be held in Rome in 2022, he also asserts that the Pope “has legitimized the aspiration of the faithful to see in the baptismal priesthood the fulcrum of a way of being ministerial that is destined to collaborate, in very precise areas, with the way of being ministerial deriving from the ordained priesthood.”
In a more general comment he remarks that “It can also be said that the new measure does justice to the marked religious sensitivity of women and to the ministerial potential they possess.”
The article concludes with a striking evaluation: “The possibility of conferring instituted ministries on the laity, recognized by the motu proprio Spiritus Domini, is a milestone and a point of no return that will not fail to positively mark the life of the Church.”
The author underlines the connection between these ministries and the works of charity: “Along with liturgical services, which are many and should not be minimized, lectors and instituted acolytes will henceforth have an authoritative qualification to engage also in the management of charitable services, which flow from the Word proclaimed at the ambo and from the Bread of Life broken at the altar, to bring relief – as Justin recalls – “to orphans and widows, and to those who are neglected by sickness or other cause, and to those who are in prison, and to those who stay as foreigners: in short, […] to all those who are in need.”
You can read the full text here.
Giraudo is Professor Emeritus of Liturgy and Theology in the Eastern Institute of Rome and ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology. La Civilta Cattolica, a venerable journal of Catholic thought published continuously since 1850, is considered to reflect the mind of the Vatican. Its contents are reviewed by the Secretariat of State before publication.