Support for women deacons ‘substantial’ at synod

The need to recognize the ministry of Catholic women deacons has become a key topic at the Amazon synod.

Many of the 185 prelates at the synod approve of ordaining women as deacons to address a lack of ministers in the region.

Bishop Derek Byrne, who is from a Brazilian diocese, says the support is especially strong from bishops who “find that they just can’t serve their people” because they lack ministers.

Despite the “substantial support,” Byrne observed among other prelates, he says he doesn’t know if it would reach the two-thirds threshold required to get approval from the synod.

Several small working groups mentioned women deacons in their reports last Friday.

These reports are expected to be used in coming days as the basis for a tentative first draft of the synod’s final document.

Byrne says he raised the issue of women deacons both in his own small group and during his four-minute speech at one of the synod’s general sessions.

“The second thing that I spoke about was the role of women in the church,” he says.

“I said we have all seen this, especially in our rural communities — they depend so much on women, and some of them are really mothers of the community, and the community wouldn’t be standing if it were not for the women.

“I said that I hoped that the church would return to ordaining women deacons”.

His claim relating to women’s former role in the church is a reference to research from church historians showing evidence that women served as deacons in the early centuries of the church.

Saying he thinks the church has given a “raw deal to women, he adds:

“I believe the ministry of women has to be more recognized, and this would be certainly be a first step in the right direction.”

Byrne, 71,says his diocese is about half the size of his native Ireland. It takes him about six hours to reach some of his 19 parishes because of the dirt roads.

He has about 30 priests to serve his Catholic population.


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