First Orthodox deaconess of modern times sacramentally ordained


Last week the Orthodox Church sacramentally ordained a deaconess for the first time in modern times.

Archbishop Serafim of Zimbabwe ordained Angelic Molen (pictured right) as a deaconess on Maundy Thursday (2 May) in Harare.

Molen “will do what the deacon does in the liturgy and in all sacraments in our Orthodox services” Serafim says.

In the Orthodox Church, deacons’ primary task is to assist in the liturgy.

Molen’s long-term involvement at the missionary parish of St Nektarios in Harare has seen her set up a pastoral centre.

She is involved in youth work, catechesis and working with mothers.

Currently studying geography and environmental sciences, the new deacon will be responsible for ecological initiatives in the parishes of Zimbabwe.

Women admitted to the diaconate

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and the whole of Africa decided in 2016 to admit women to the diaconate. This was not a new initiative however as ordained women were customary in the early church.

The “Holy and Great Synod” of the entire Orthodox Church on Crete made the same decision that same year.

In 2017, the first women in the Democratic Republic of Congo were ordained subdeacons.

Unlike the subdiaconate, the diaconate belongs to the higher orders according to Orthodox understanding, and is sacramental.

Never formally abolished

The office of deaconess has a long tradition in Orthodoxy.

Although it was never formally abolished, it has rarely been practised since the middle ages.

From time to time various Orthodox churches have sought to revive the diaconate for women. In 1906, the Russian Orthodox Church considered its revival.

In the middle of the 20th century, the Greek Orthodox Church founded a school for deaconesses in Athens. It closed about 20 years later.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and the whole of Africa is in the tradition of the third patriarchate of the early church.

With some 250,000 followers, it represents a minority and is led by Patriarch Theodoros II.

Catholic female diaconate

The Catholic Church has for several years been discussing the pros and cons of reintroducing the diaconate for women.

At present Pope Francis has a working group discussing the subject.

In Germany, the “Day of the Deaconess” is celebrated on 28 April, the feast day of Catherine of Sienna, Doctor of the Church.


  •  AI – Translated International Content – Story content originally in German.
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