In what could be a historic step, Pope Francis announced plans to create a special commission to study the possibility of letting women serve as deacons in the Catholic Church.
The pope came up with the plan during a meeting at the Vatican on Thursday (May 12) with Catholic women leaders from around the world, the National Catholic Reporter writes. During a question-and-answer session, members of the audience pointed out that women served as deacons in the early Catholic Church, and requested Francis create a commission to study this question.
The pontiff recalled a conversation he once had with a “good, wise professor” who had studied this chapter in the Church’s history. Francis asked him whether the women had been ordained. “It was a bit obscure….What was the role of the deaconess in that time?” He said the professor told him that women had helped baptize other women, a ritual that required fully submerging the naked body under water.
“Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” the pope pondered. “I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this.”
According to Church teachings, last expressed by Pope John Paul II, women cannot be ordained as priests because Jesus chose only men to be his apostles. Deacons can be married and are ordained like priests, but are restricted in which Church duties they can perform, according to the National Catholic Reporter.