Catholic News Service
POPE FRANCIS has told the heads of women's religious orders from around the world that he will set up a commission to study New Testament deaconesses. He has also insisted that more can and should be done to involve lay and consecrated women in church decision-making at every level.
Asked if he would establish ‘an official commission to study the question’ of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate, Pope Francis responded: ‘I accept. It would be useful for the church to clarify this question. I agree.’
The pope spent more than an hour on Thursday responding to questions posed by members of the International Union of Superiors General, repeatedly asking if they wanted further clarification and making funny asides or rephrasing his responses when it was clear they were not hitting the mark.
‘I like hearing your questions because they make me think,’ the pope told close to 900 superiors general, representing almost 500,000 sisters around the world. ‘I feel like a goalie who is standing there waiting for the ball and not knowing where it's going to come from.’
Asked about deaconesses in the New Testament and the possibility of the modern church admitting women to the permanent diaconate, Pope Francis had said his understanding was that the women described as deaconesses in the Bible were not ordained like permanent deacons are. Mainly, he said, it appeared that they assisted with the baptism by immersion of other women and with the anointing of women.
However, he said, ‘I will ask the (Congregation for the) Doctrine of the Faith to tell me if there are studies on this.’
Asked about the lack of influence women religious are given in church decision-making processes, Pope Francis said the obligation to listen to women in the parish, diocese and at the Vatican ‘is not a matter of feminism, but of right.’
All the baptized -- women and men, lay or consecrated -- have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit for the good of the entire church, he insisted.
‘The entire church suffers when some voices are excluded from the conversation.’