Pope to have commission study women deacon issue

Pope Francis has said he will establish a Vatican commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic Church.

Francis was asked during a meeting with leaders of female religious congregations about women deacons and their role in the early church.

The Pope responded that he had spoken about the matter some years ago with a “good, wise professor” who had studied the use of female deacons in the early centuries of the Church.

Francis said last Thursday that the professor had told him that female deacons had helped the early Church, particularly in baptising women.

This was when the practice of Baptism at the time called for full immersion of the person’s naked body in water.

But Francis said it remained unclear to him what role such deacons had, so he agreed with the sisters that it would be a good idea to set up a commission to look at the issue.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, later said Pope Francis did not say in his remarks that he intends to introduce the ordination of women deacons and even less the ordination of women as priests.

Many historians have said that there is abundant evidence that women served as deacons in the early centuries of the Church.

According to a report in UK Catholic Herald, Francis told the congregational leaders he would get the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to tell him if there had been studies on the matter.

In 2001, the International Theological Commission, which advises the CDF, issued a document which concluded that female deacons in history were not “purely and simply” equivalent to permanent deacons.

The commission spoke of the unity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

But it also mentioned a clear distinction between the ministries of the bishop and the priests on the one hand and the diaconal ministry on the other.

At the meeting with congregational leaders, Pope Francis said women could not preach at Mass because the priest is serving “in persona Christi” and should therefore give the homily.

He promised that the Congregation for Divine Worship would send the congregational leaders a full explanation of this.


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