He conferred the ministries - a process where designated people are selected and prepared to carry out certain activities in the Church - at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday (January 23).
Six women and two men were installed as lectors and three women and five men as catechists. Francis gave a bible to each lector and a crucifix to each catechist.
The change will be particularly important as a recognition for women in places such as the Amazon, where some are the de facto religious leaders of remote communities hit by a severe shortage of priests.
The Vatican stressed that the roles are not a precursor to women one day being allowed to become priests. The Catholic Church teaches that only men can be priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.