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FEMALE SERVERS

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dered development of liturgical life in the diocese entrusted to his care, bearing in mind, among other things, the sensibilities of the faithful, the reasons which would motivate such a permission, and the different litur gical settings and congregations which gather for the Holy Mass (d. Circular Letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, March 15, 1994, no. 1)

In accord with the above cited instructions of the Holy See such an au thorization may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers, since it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar' (Circular Letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, March 15, 1994, no. 2). Indeed, the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain, not least of all due to the well known assistance that such programs have provided since time immemorial in encouraging vocations (Ibid).

With respect to whether the practice of women serving at the altar would truly be of pastoral advantage in the local pastoral situation, it is perhaps helpful to recall that the non-ordained faithful do not have a right to service at the altar, rather they are capable of being admitted to such ser vice by the Sacred Pastors (d. Circular Letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, March 15, 1994, no. 4, d. Also can. 228, para. I, Interdicasterial Instruction Ecclesiae de mysterio, August 15, 1997, no. 4, see Notitiae 34 [1998] 9-42). Therefore, in the event that your Excellency found it opportune to authorize service of women at the altar, it would remain important to explain clearly to the faithful the nature of this innovation, lest confusion might be introduced, thereby hampering the development of priestly vocations.

Having thus confirmed and further clarified the contents of its previous response to Your Excellency, this Dicastery wishes to assure you of its grat itude for the opportunity to elaborate further upon this question and that it considers the preset letter to be normative.

With every good wish and kind regard, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,"

JORGE A. CARDINAL MEDINA ESTEVEZ, PREFECT CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS

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