ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has changed church law to explicitly allow women to do more things during Mass, granting them access to the altar, while reaffirming they cannot be priests.
Francis amended the law to formalize what is common practice in many parts of the world: that women can read the Gospel and serve on the altar as eucharistic ministers.
Previously, such roles were officially reserved to men even though exceptions were made.
Francis said he was making the change to increase recognition of the “precious contribution” women make in the church, while emphasizing that all baptized Catholics have a role to play in the church’s mission.
Francis remains under pressure to allow women to be deacons, ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests, like presiding over weddings, baptisms and funerals.
A commission of experts has been created by the church to study the issue of women becoming deacons.