Pope Assembles Experts to Weigh Idea of Women Deacons

A 2016 commission couldn't come to a consensus
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 8, 2020 11:11 AM CDT
Pope Assembles Experts to Weigh Idea of Women Deacons
Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass behind closed doors in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Sunday.   (AP Photo/pool/Alberto Pizzoli)

The Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Francis has created a new commission of experts to examine whether women can be deacons, an ordained role in the Catholic Church currently reserved for men. The 10-member commission, the second of Francis' pontificate to study the fraught issue, includes equal numbers of men and women representing the United States and six European countries. Deacons are ordained ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests. They preside at weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and they can preach. They cannot celebrate Mass. Married men can be ordained as deacons. Women can't, though historians say women served as deacons in the early Christian church, reports the AP.

In response to women demanding to be given greater roles in the 21st century, Francis established a commission in 2016 to study female deacons in the early Christian church. But the members failed to reach a consensus and the group effectively ended its work. The issue was revived during Francis' 2019 summit on the Amazon. The region's bishops called for the question of women deacons to be revisited given the shortage of priests in the vast territory. Francis agreed at the time, and the new commission appears to be his follow-up. Significantly, the scope of the commission's mandate doesn't appear to be limited to the early church, as with the 2016 commission. Amazonian bishops had called for the real-life experiences of their region's Catholic faithful to be taken into consideration in any new evaluation.

(Read more Pope Francis stories.)

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