Catholic Church allows women to perform baptisms

women to perform baptisms

A German Catholic diocese has commissioned 17 women to perform baptisms, citing a shortfall in the number of priests.

In Germany’s industrial Ruhr area, the Diocese of Essen is the first diocese in the country to appoint a group of women to administer the sacrament, reported CAN Deutsch.

Church law stipulates that only an ordained minister—a priest or deacon—is the ordinary minister for Baptism. However, the bishop can authorise another person to perform the ceremony if a priest is not available and, in an emergency, anyone can baptise.

Theresa Kohlmeyer, head of the department of faith, liturgy, and culture in the diocese, said that the step was necessary because there were “fewer priests than in the past.

“Time and again, the Church has reacted to external circumstances over the past 2,000 years,” added Kohlmeyer.

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen explained that the decision to commission lay people — 17 women and one man — is a temporary measure and will initially last for three years.

Overbeck said the action allowing women to perform baptisms was a response to “a pastorally difficult situation.”

Canon 861 of the Code of Canon Law says that “the ordinary minister of baptism is a bishop, a presbyter, or a deacon.”

It adds that “when an ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or another person designated for this function by the local ordinary, or in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly.”

Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart announced in March 2021 that he would look into the possibility of baptism by lay pastoral workers, establishing a working group.

More than 2.5 million people live in the Essen diocese, 724,047 of whom are Catholic. It is the smallest diocese in Germany in terms of area.


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