Paul VI explained that the lector is “instituted for the office, proper to him, of reading the word of God in the liturgical assembly.”
“The reader, feeling the responsibility of the office received, should do all he can and make use of the appropriate means to acquire every day more fully the sweet and lively love and the knowledge of Sacred Scripture, in order to become a more perfect disciple of the Lord,” he wrote.
What is an acolyte?
After abolishing the minor orders, Pope Paul VI wrote that an acolyte was a ministry in the Church with the “duty to take care of the service of the altar, to help the deacon and the priest in liturgical actions, especially in the celebration of the Holy Mass.”
Potential responsibilities for an acolyte include distributing Holy Communion as an extraordinary minister if such ministers are not present, publicly exposing the Eucharist for adoration in extraordinary circumstances, and “the instruction of the other faithful, who, on a temporary basis, help the deacon and the priest in liturgical services by carrying the missal, cross, candles, etc.”
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Pope Paul VI wrote: “The acolyte, destined in a special way to the service of the altar, learns all those notions concerning divine public worship and strives to understand its intimate and spiritual meaning: in this way he can offer himself, every day, completely to God and be, in the temple, an example to all for his serious and respectful behavior, and also to have a sincere love for the mystical body of Christ, or people of God, and especially for the weak and the sick.”
What reasons did Pope Francis give for the changes?
In his apostolic letter, the pope said that a number of Synods of Bishops had “highlighted the need to deepen the subject doctrinally” in light of present-day challenges and the need to support evangelization.
“Accepting these recommendations, a doctrinal development has taken place in recent years which has highlighted how certain ministries instituted by the Church are based on the common condition of being baptized and the regal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism,” he wrote.
Emphasizing that these ministries were different to ordained ministry, he said: “A consolidated practice in the Latin Church has also confirmed, in fact, that these lay ministries, since they are based on the Sacrament of Baptism, may be entrusted to all suitable faithful, whether male or female.”
Does this open the way for women priests?
In his letter to Cardinal Ladaria, Pope Francis reiterated his predecessor John Paul II’s statement in the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.”
He underlined the distinction between “ordained ministries” and “non-ordained ministries,” explaining that “it is possible, and today it seems appropriate” to open “non-ordained ministries” to both men and women.
He said that the previous reservation of these non-ordained ministries to men had “its own meaning in a certain context but can be rethought in new contexts, always having as their criteria fidelity to the mandate of Christ and the will to live and proclaim the Gospel transmitted by the Apostles and entrusted to the Church.”
Who will oversee the changes?
In Pope Francis’s letter to Cardinal Ladaria, he said that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments would be responsible for guiding the changes, amending parts of the Roman Missal and the rite of institution of lectors and acolytes where necessary.