ROME (AP) — Pope Francis called Wednesday for simplified adoption procedures and urged couples to have more children as he presided over his first general audience of the New Year with a novel supporting cast that emphasized his call for a less-clericalized Catholic Church.
For the first time, a layman and a nun provided the English and Spanish translations of Francis’ weekly catechism lesson rather than a cloaked monsignor, a small but revolutionary change for the Vatican.
Vatican monsignors from the secretariat of state have always provided the summarized translations at the Wednesday general audience. On Wednesday, the clerics only read the translations in French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Polish and Italian.
The Vatican announced the change ahead of time, saying that starting Wednesday “men and women, religious and lay employees of several dicasteries of the Roman Curia, will be present at the General Audience for the reading of the greetings in various languages.”
During his nearly nine-year pontificate, Francis has often criticized the element of Catholic culture that puts priests on a pedestal and has advocated for the “people of God” to take their rightful place in the church.
He has called for women in particular to serve in governance roles and has appointed a handful of women religious to important jobs in the Vatican, though none heads a Vatican congregation. He is currently presiding over a two-year consultation of the Catholic laity around the globe to understand the needs and desires of ordinary faithful and how the church can better serve them.