BY CAROL GLATZ IN ROME
PERMITTING girls to serve at the altar marked the end of a form of inequality in the Church and allowed girls to experience the formative power of directly assisting with the mystery of the Eucharist, an article in the Vatican newspaper has said.
Assisting the priest during Mass is both a service and a privilege and represents “a deep and responsible way to live one’s Christian identity”, said the article by Lucetta Scaraffia published in L’Osservatore Romano.
“The exclusion of girls from all of this, for the sole reason of their being female, has always weighed heavily and represented a deep inequality within Catholic education,” it said.
Even though there may have been many parishioners who begrudgingly accepted the presence of girls as servers only when there were no boys to fill the role, “overcoming this barrier was very important for young women”, it said.
Permitting girls to assist at the altar “has meant the idea they were impure because of their gender came to an end” and has meant girls, too, “could live out this extraordinarily important formative experience”, it said.
The article came in the same week Pope Benedict XVI met more than 53,000 altar servers from Europe during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square. The majority – 60 per cent – were female.