Women deacons in history | National Catholic Reporter


Pope Francis’ call for a discussion of reestablishing women deacons in the church has understandably renewed interest in the history of women deacons. Three very important questions are being asked:

  • First, were there ever women deacons in the church?
  • Second, if there were women deacons, what did they do? Was it the same as male deacons?
  • Finally, and most urgently, was the ordination of women deacons an ordination to a major order, that of the diaconate, or was it merely a blessing establishing women in a minor order or role?

First, there is no question that there were women deacons in the past, both in the Eastern and in the Western churches. I refer to “women deacons” in this article, not “deaconesses.” Though historical sources use diacona (women deacon) and diaconissa (deaconess) interchangeably, there were not two groups, only one. Using the one term removes any ambiguity.

That said, there is ample evidence for women deacons in Christian history. Starting with Phoebe, the only deacon named as such in Scripture, numerous references to women deacons appear in epigraphs, letters, chronicles and, most importantly, ordination rites for women deacons in the Western and Eastern churches.

Source:  National Catholic Reporter

Francis’ female deacon commission brings hope, caution | National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the heads of women’s religious orders in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 12. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ announcement Thursday to create a commission to examine the history of female deacons in the Catholic church has left many longtime advocates with a sense of hope, joy and drive moving forward in their efforts to enhance female leadership in the church.

“I am standing on my head, I am happy, I am crying,” Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, told NCR in a phone interview Thursday morning. “It is just a historic breakthrough of enormous proportion and the implications are far-reaching, as far as what women will be able to take on in the church.”

Rose-Milavec said while the pope is likely to run into opposition from members of the Roman Curia and some theologian and scripture scholars, she does not believe it will deter him. “I don’t have any doubts about it. … No concerns,” she said of the opposition. “The UISG spoke very directly about this to him, and I think when he makes a promise to them in that way, it’s not going to go away.”

Source: National Catholic Reporter