Pope Francis: Let’s study idea of ordaining women as deacons [and more?]
Women bishops in Rome: Anglican and Episcopal Suffragans meet Pope Francis
VATICAN CITY (RNS) In an opening with historic import, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women.
The order of deacons was reinsitituted in the Catholic Church following the reforms of the 1960s, and while deacons cannot celebrate Mass like a priest, a deacon can preach at Mass, celebrate funerals, and perform baptisms.
But in restoring the diaconate, the church also restricted ordination as a deacon to “mature married men” over 35.
Many protested that limitation, saying the earliest Christian texts also speak of “deaconesses” and arguing that the modern church should also allow women deacons.
Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were both theologically conservative pontiffs who said that such a move was unjustified and could undermine the concept of the all-male priesthood.
But Francis said Thursday (May 12) he agreed the matter should be given more careful consideration, telling hundreds of nuns from around the world that he himself always wondered about the role of deaconesses in the early church.
“Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” the pontiff asked aloud in response to questions from some of the sisters.
“I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement,” he said, according to an initial report from National Catholic Reporter.
“I accept,” the pope said later. “It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well.”