Pope open to discussion of women deacons

Pope Francis has opened the possibility that women could be ordained as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. During a 12 May 2016 Question and Answer session at an audience with 900 women religious gathered for a meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), Pope Francis said it would be good to establish a commission to study if it is possible to have female deacons. The pope was asked: “What prevents the Church from including women among permanent deacons, as was the case in the primitive Church? Why not constitute an official commission to study the matter? Can you give an example of where you see the possibility of better integration of women and consecrated women in the life of the Church?” Francis told the Sisters he did not have a doctrinal answer ready to hand, and offered an anecdote based upon a conversation he had had with a scholar on this point. However, “I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point, I agree, and I will speak so as to do something of this type. .. So, with regard to the diaconate, yes, I agree and it seems to me it would be useful to have a commission to clarify this well, especially with regard to the early times of the Church.” Anglican women deacons have their origins in the 19th century, In 1855 the Bishop of Maryland appointed the Anglican Communion’s first two deaconesses with the Bishop of London following in 1862, with much of the Communion following soon after. Deaconesses were not ordained, however, but were appointed or “ordered” and were not considered members of the clergy. The 1920 Lambeth Conference adopted a resolution affirming that deaconesses were ordained members of the clergy, but the 1930 Conference reversed that decision. In 1965 the Bishop of California, the Rt. Rev. James Pike recognized a deaconess as a deacon, prompting the US House of Bishops to ask the 1968 Lambeth Conference for a clarification on the status of deaconesses. The every ten year gathering of Anglican bishops reversed the 1930 Lambeth Conference decision and held deaconesses were ordained members of the order of deacons, but referred implementation of the decision to the national provinces. Following the meeting Hong Kong, Kenya, Korea and Canada began ordaining women to the diaconate, with the Episcopal Church of the USA following in 1971 and the Church of England in 1987. As of 2016 33 of the communion’s 38 provinces ordain women to the diaconate. Four do not: Central Africa, Melanesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and South East Asia.


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