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Pope to Create Commission to Study Possibility of Female Deacons

Last edited 12th May 2016

Pope to Create Commission to Study Possibility of Female Deacons

The Pontiff indicated he would create such a commission during a meeting at the Vatican yesterday with some 900 leaders of the world’s congregations of women religious, who asked him during a question-and-answer session why the Church excludes women from serving as deacons.

The women religious, meeting with the Pope as part of the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, told Francis that women had served as deacons in the early Church and asked: "Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?"

The Pope responded that he had spoken about the matter once 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 it remained unclear to him what role such deacons had.

"What were these female deacons?" the Pontiff recalled asking the professor. "Did they have ordination or no?
"It was a bit obscure," said Francis. "What was the role of the deaconess in that time? "Constituting an official commission that might study the question?" the pontiff asked aloud. "I believe yes. It would do good for the Church to clarify this point.

I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this." "I accept," the Pope said later. "It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well."

Francis' openness to studying the possibility of women serving as deacons could represent an historic shift for the global Church, which does not ordain women as clergy.

Pope John Paul II claimed in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that "the Church has no authority whatsoever" to ordain women as priests, citing Jesus' choosing of only men to serve as his 12 apostles.

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

The apostle Paul mentions such a woman, Phoebe, in his letter to the Romans. In the modern day, the Church reinstituted the role of the permanent deacon following the reforms of the landmark 1962-65 Second Vatican Council.

The role is generally open to married men who have reached the age of 35. Such men are ordained, similar to priests, but can only conduct certain ministries in the Church. While they cannot celebrate the Mass, they frequently lead prayer services, offer the sacrament of baptism, and even manage parishes as pastoral administrators in the absence of priests.


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