‘A really welcome change’: Pope officially expands women’s roles in Catholic Church

Women still cannot be priests

FILE - In this file photo dated  Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff as he arrives to celebrate Mass, at St. Peter's Basilica.  Pope Francis has changed church law to explicitly allow women to do more things during Mass, Monday Jan. 11, 2021, while reaffirming they cannot be priests. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff as he arrives to celebrate Mass, at St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Francis has changed church law to explicitly allow women to do more things during Mass, Monday Jan. 11, 2021, while reaffirming they cannot be priests. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, FILE) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

DETROIT – The role of women in the Catholic Church is expanding and it’s no longer based on the decision of an individual Bishop. It’s coming from the top.

“It’s a really welcome change from the Pope,” Katie Lacz, of Women’s Ordination Conference, said.

Advocates for gender equality in the Catholic Church are praising the decision by Pope Francis.

“The church will no longer deny women and girls the opportunity to participate in this ministry,” Lacz said.

For decades, girls and women have been allowed to be lectors and altar servers. But up until now, it was left to the discretion of individual bishops. Pope Francis has now made it canon law.

“To have come this far, just in our lifetime is already a very positive step,” says Monsignor Zenz, “and I think there’s hope for the future for enhancing the role of women.”

Monsignor Zenz of Holy Name Catholic Church in Birmingham says the role of women “keeps the church going” at every level.

“The faith of women, the hard work the humble service, the generous outreach, their intellectual abilities their commitment their zeal is what makes the church survive in every culture,” Zenz said.

Lacz adds, “To be a young girl and to see another girl as an altar server, assisting at the altar or to be someone hearing the Bible spoken and proclaimed by a woman’s voice, is really profound.”

The Women’s Ordination Conference hopes this will pave the way for women to serve as ordained deacons, priests and bishops.

If the church, “Advocates for human rights, but treats half of its members in a way that denies 50 percent equality. That advocacy, that witness, feels hollow,” Lacz said. “We’re not trying to do something radically new, we’re trying to recover what was already there and also to heed where we feel the spirit is calling the church.”

READ: Pope says women can read at Mass, but still can’t be priests


About the Author:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism