The Pope Francisco conferred on Sunday for the first time at women lay Roman Catholic ministries of reader and catechist, roles that many had previously performed without a institutional recognition.
Francis conferred the ministries at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica where, in an apparent reference to resistance to change from some conservatives, he criticized those who need to have rigid norms and “more rules” to find God.
Last year, Francisco changed church law about the ministries of readers and acolytes, which had been reserved primarily for seminarians preparing for the priesthood, saying that he wanted to bring stability and public recognition to women in those roles.
Lectors read the Scriptures, altar servers serve at Mass, and catechists teach the faith to child and adult converts.
The ministries of reader and acolyte existed before but were officially reserved for men. Francis instituted the ministry of the catechist last year.
At Sunday Mass, the pope installed six women and two men as readers and three women and five men as catechists. Francis handed out a Bible to each reader and a crucifix to each catechist.
The formalization will make it more difficult for conservative bishops to prevent women in their dioceses from taking on those roles.
Francis has also appointed several women to high level positions in Vatican apartments previously occupied by men.