German archbishop wants new office of women deacons

The president of the German Catholic bishops’ conference has called for a new office of women deacons in the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg made it clear he was calling for a new office specifically for women, rather than admission of women to the sacramental diaconate.

He called for the move at the end of a four-day conference to discuss possible reforms, to which 300 Catholic experts were invited to put forward proposals.

Archbishop Zollitsch’s comments echo previous calls from the Central Committee of German Catholics to permit women to become deacons. He said that aim was no longer a “taboo”.

The archbishop said the Catholic Church could only regain credibility and strength by committing to reform. He described an “atmosphere of openness and freedom” at the conference.

He also commented favourably on a conference proposal to allowed divorced and remarried Catholics to serve on parish councils and possibly receive Communion — another subject on which liberal German Catholics have lobbied for a change.

“It’s important to me that, without undermining the sanctity of marriage, these men and women are taken seriously within the Church and feel respected and at home,” he said.

The conference also touched on the difficulty, particularly in eastern Germany, of recruiting people to work for Catholic institutions such as hospitals and kindergarten. At present the Church can only employ Catholics.

Archbishop Zollitsch called for work permits to be extended to non-Catholics and to those with “different lifestyles”.

One of the conference participants, Thomas Berg, of the Baden-Württemberg Leadership Academy, said: “I have never experienced a process of strategy development as transparent as this one.”


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