ROME—Pope Francis, who has disappointed women pressing for ordination as clergy, has now made a more modest change to their role in Catholic worship, formally permitting them to read prayers and scripture at Mass.
The ruling formalizes what has long been common practice. Catholic women around the world have served as lectors and acolytes, kinds of liturgical assistants, for decades.
But until the new papal decree, released Monday, individual local bishops have been able to restrict those roles to men in their dioceses by citing church law.
Pope Francis wrote that codifying women’s participation in those roles would raise awareness “of the precious contribution that many lay persons, including women, have been offering for some time to the life and mission of the church.”
Pope Francis stressed that the roles of reader and altar server are lay ministries and thus don’t require ministers to be ordained as clergy.