Cardinal Hollerich urges caution, dialogue on women’s ordination

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the 16th Annual General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. |

By AC Wimmer

In a new interview, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, suggested that the Church’s position on female priests is not set in stone and should be discussed further, at the same time warning of triggering “a huge backlash.”

Speaking to the official Swiss Catholic portal kath.ch on May 17, Hollerich, who is the archbishop of Luxembourg, said the prohibition against ordaining women was “not an infallible doctrinal decision” and could be changed over time with arguments.

“The way I see it, most bishops are in favor of a greater role for women in the Church,” the Jesuit cardinal said. “I am in favor of women feeling fully equal in the Church. And we will also work toward this. I don’t know if that necessarily has to include ordination to the priesthood. You can’t tie everything to the priesthood alone. That would be clericalization.”

When asked whether he thought Pope Francis would introduce female priests, Hollerich replied: “It’s very difficult to say. The pope is sometimes good for surprises.”

The archbishop of Luxemburg added: “But I would actually say no. Shortly before the synod, there was a ‘dubia’ from a few cardinals. They asked whether John Paul II’s rejection of the priesthood of women was binding for the Church. Francis replied very wisely: It is binding, but not forever. And he also said that theology would have to discuss this further.”

The cardinal, who has previously courted controversy on doctrinal matters, emphasized the need for ongoing discussion.

“It means that it is not an infallible doctrinal decision. It can be changed. It needs arguments and time,” Hollerich said.

At the same time, the Jesuit cautioned against pushing too hard for changes, noting that “if you push too much, you won’t achieve much. You have to be cautious, take one step at a time, and then you might be able to go very far.”

The interview was conducted by Jacqueline Straub, who works for the official portal of the Church in Switzerland and publicly describes herself as “called to be a Roman Catholic priest.”

Her assertion to Hollerich that women were forced to take a back seat in the Church was “based on a typically European principle of the individual,” the cardinal responded.

Citing the example of blessing homosexual couples after Fiducia Supplicans, Hollerich warned of a potentially “huge backlash” if the Vatican were to introduce the ordination of women to the priesthood.

“We have to have these discussions with the whole Church; otherwise, we will have huge problems later. Then the Catholic Church will fall apart.”

In 1994, Pope John Paul II, citing the Church’s traditional teaching, declared in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

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Pope Francis says U.S. conservatives have a “suicidal attitude”

Pope Francis being interviewed by CBS’ Norah O’Donnell on “60 Minutes.”

By Rebecca Falconer

Pope Francis responded to U.S. conservative bishops’ criticisms of his progressive shift to Roman Catholic Church doctrine in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” airing Sunday evening.

Details: The pope noted during the interview via a Spanish translator that the adjective “conservative” in such instances was “one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that.”

  • He added: “It is a suicidal attitude. Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box.”

Why it matters: Since being elected pope in 2013, Francis has advocated for progressive issues and moved to make the Catholic Church more welcoming to LGBTQ+ people while at the same time upholding its historical views on the sacrament of marriage — angering some conservatives in the process.

What he’s saying: During his CBS interview, Francis clarified his position on allowing priests to bless same-sex couples.

  • “What I allowed was not to bless the union,” the 87-year-old pontiff told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell. “That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. … But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone,” he added.
  • “To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all. Some people were scandalized by this. But why?”
  • O’Donnell noted that the pope had previously said that “homosexuality is not a crime,” to which Francis replied: “It is a human fact.”

Zoom in: The pope also criticized Texas officials’ efforts to shut down a Catholic charity that offers undocumented immigrants humanitarian assistance as part of a wider crackdown at the state’s border with Mexico.

  • “That is madness. Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness,” he said.
  • “The migrant has to be received. Thereafter you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely.”

On surrogacy, the pontiff said in the “strictest sense of the term” it is not authorized by Vatican doctrine.

  • But when O’Donnell noted sometimes this was the only hope for women, Francis replied: “It could be. The other hope is adoption.”
  • He said in each case the situation “should be carefully and clearly considered, consulting medically and then morally as well.”
  • The pope said he thinks there’s a general rule in these cases, “but you have to go into each case in particular to assess the situation, as long as the moral principle is not skirted.”
  • He then told O’Donnell she was right in her assertion. “I really liked your expression when you told me, ‘In some cases it is the only chance,'” he said. “It shows that you feel these things very deeply.”

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Catholic diocesan hermit approved by Kentucky bishop comes out as transgender

— Matson is thought to be the first openly transgender person in his position in the Catholic Church.

Brother Christian Matson is a Catholic diocesan hermit in Kentucky.

By

Diocesan hermits by nature don’t get much attention. A small subset of religious persons, hermits mostly spend their lives engaged in quiet prayer.

Brother Christian Matson, a Catholic diocesan hermit in Kentucky, has spent years doing just that. His monk’s habit might catch his neighbors’ eye, but he is known in the town where he lives primarily through his work with the local theater.

But recently Matson decided that his faith compels him to make a little more noise than usual.

“This Sunday, Pentecost 2024, I’m planning to come out publicly as transgender,” Matson told Religion News Service on Friday (May 17), saying he was speaking out with the permission of his bishop, John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky.


Matson, who is also a Benedictine oblate, believes he is the first openly transgender person in his position in the Catholic Church. It is a difficult claim to confirm — even Stowe told RNS he did not know for sure if Matson is the first — but Matson’s status is at least highly unusual, and comes at time when church officials are grappling with how to address transgender Catholics.

According to Matson, 39, his “disclosing,” as he describes it, is a moment years in the making. He offered his story as indicative of the often difficult path for trans Catholics, including those seeking life as a religious — a category that includes brothers and nuns.

“I am currently based in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky,” he wrote in an email to friends and supporters on Sunday. “I live in a hermitage at the top of a wooded hill, which I share with my German Shepherd rescue, Odie, and with the Blessed Sacrament, which was installed in my oratory shortly before Christmas.”

Raised in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Matson converted to Catholicism in 2010 — four years, he noted, after transitioning in college, a step he refers to as a part of his “medical history” rather than a “central part of my personal identity.” After his conversion, Matson felt called to minister to people working in the arts, but knew he would encounter “issues” because of a 2000 Vatican document that, according to a Catholic News Service report from the time, declared that anyone who had undergone “sex-change” was ineligible “to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life.”

Matson approached a canon lawyer to discuss his options and was told that only two aspects of Catholic life were categorically off the table: marriage and the priesthood. According to Matson, the canon lawyer recommended being upfront about his status as a transgender man in any vocational conversations with church leaders and noted the role of a diocesan hermit, which may prove less challenging enlisting with an existing religious order.

The canon lawyer, Matson said, effectively conveyed to him “there’s no problem as long as there’s a bishop who will accept you, because there’s no distinction by sex and you’re not in a community — you’re by yourself.”

What followed was roughly a decade of searching and no small amount of rejection. Living in the United Kingdom while pursuing a master’s degree and later a Ph.D. in theology, Matson entered a vocational discernment program and approached the Jesuit order to ask if he could join.

“They said, ’No, we just don’t see how this would work for us,’ which was crushing, because that’s where I felt called,” Matson said.

Other communities offered similar responses, when they responded at all. “People who knew me said, ‘You clearly have a religious vocation,’ and these were all people who knew my medical history,” Matson said. “But when they would go to the people in the community in charge of making that decision, they … would often just refuse to even meet with me.”

In one instance, Matson said, a religious leader declined to meet simply to hear his experience as a trans man, saying doing so would be “a waste of time.”

But Matson’s call to religious life wouldn’t abate. While visiting a monastery during a retreat, he found himself unable to sleep, consumed with the idea of starting “a religious community of and for artists — artists who are living together, (operating) in the church through their art, and ministering to the loneliness and sense of precarity many artists experience.”

In 2015, he returned to New York City, where he had attended college. Having already taking private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience — witnessed by his spiritual director — before he arrive, he co-created a nonprofit called the Catholic Artist Connection. The group hosted retreats and connected artists to resources such as the Archdiocese of New York’s Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, where Matson began working as a programming associate.

Matson kept running into artists who wanted to pursue religious life, he said, and continued to feel the tug himself. But roadblocks kept appearing. “As I spoke to friends in the archdiocese, I knew somebody with a trans background was never going to be accepted into religious life in the Archdiocese of New York,” Matson said.

He tried again after a move to Minnesota in 2018, but his entreaties to various religious communities and orders were also rejected.

“I thought, well, if I can’t find a religious community to sponsor me, maybe what I need is a bishop,” Matson said.

A priest friend recommended different bishops to contact, beginning with Stowe, who was emerging as a leading voice among Catholics calling for a more tolerant approach to LGBTQ people. In 2020, Matson sent Stowe a letter, conveying his status as a transgender man, his vision for an artists’ community and his pull to religious life.

Stowe wrote back immediately, expressing his openness.

“It was an enormous relief,” Matson said. “I was in tears. I felt my hope revive.”

Stowe confirmed Matson’s account, saying the then-aspiring brother was recommended to him by a number of people.

“My willingness to be open to him is because it’s a sincere person seeking a way to serve the church,” Stowe said of Matson. “Hermits are a rarely used form of religious life … but they can be either male or female. Because there’s no pursuit of priesthood or engagement in sacramental ministry, and because the hermit is a relatively quiet and secluded type of vocation, I didn’t see any harm in letting him live this vocation.”

He added that Matson’s spiritual journey was “consistent with the calling of that particular vocation.”

Bishop John Stowe. (Video screen grab)
Bishop John Stowe.

Matson moved to Kentucky, having already made progress on Stowe’s suggestion that he link up with an additional community through which to experience religious life. Matson entered the novitiate at a Benedictine monastery in 2021, hoping the formation offered by that path would eventually help him form a new religious community for artists.

Finally, in August 2022, Matson took his first vows as a diocesan hermit — a yearlong commitment — under Stowe’s direction.

For the next year, Matson “lived a life of basically spending half the day in prayer and half the day doing some form of work” that included producing and writing at a local theater.

Three years earlier, Matson read with frustration a document issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” The instructional letter rejected “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender.”

In 2021, the Diocese of Marquette, in Michigan, followed with its own instruction to priests to refuse transgender people asking to be baptized or confirmed until they have “repented.”

“It was suddenly becoming a lot more difficult in the church to be trans,” Matson said.

The Rev. Andrea Conocchia, center, introduces members of the Torvaianica transgender community to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, 2022, during the pope’s general audience at the Vatican. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Conocchia)
The Rev. Andrea Conocchia, center, introduces members of the Torvaianica transgender community to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, 2022, during the pope’s general audience at the Vatican.

But tolerance seems to be growing in some quarters. While Pope Francis has opposed elements of gender theory and recently called its proposals “ugly,” he has also met and dined with groups of transgender people.

In November 2023, the Vatican doctrine department ruled that transgender people may be baptized and serve as witnesses at Catholic weddings, so long as doing so “doesn’t cause scandal among the faithful.”

In the United States in March, a coalition led by Catholic nuns released a letter voicing support for transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive individuals, implicitly rebuking a statement put forward by group of U.S. Catholic bishops discouraging Catholic health care groups from performing various gender-affirming medical procedures.

But overall, “Vatican-level documents that have come out on the subject have not engaged with the science at all,” Matson said, adding that he believes many diocesan-level statements are inconsistent in their attempts to categorize gender and cite scientific studies misleadingly. Matson has sent multiple private letters to Vatican offices, urging them to engage with transgender people and arguing that the church can embrace transgender people while maintaining orthodoxy.

As trans rights began to be debated in statehouses across the United States in recent months, conservative lawmakers have begun pushing bans on providing gender-affirming care for youth and, in some cases, adults.

Matson vented his frustrations to Stowe and his spiritual director, saying he wanted to speak out. But he said he was advised to first “build a foundation” in religious life for several years.

During that time, Matson had an experience that shook him. Attending a friend’s play in his religious habit, he was approached by a student who identified as trans and nonbinary. After asking if Matson was a monk, the student said they were raised Catholic, but that their parents had rejected their identity, and the student felt like they “don’t have a place in the church anymore.”

Matson responded by saying there were people in the church who would support the student, and Matson prayed with them, asking God to show the student how they are “wonderful the way you’ve made them.” The student, Matson said, grew emotional, thanking the hermit profusely and saying, “No one from the church has ever affirmed me for who I am.”

Matson, who renewed his vows in 2023, eventually began mulling a date to go public with his status. “I have to say something,” Matson told his spiritual director. He settled on Pentecost, which emphasizes preaching “the good news of God’s love to everyone,” he said. It was also the day in the church calendar when he’d been baptized years before.

“I can’t stand by and let this false and, at times, culpably ignorant understanding of what it means to be transgender continue to hurt people,” he said. “If I don’t say anything and allow the church to continue to make decisions based on incorrect information, then I’m not serving the church.”

Both Matson and Stowe said they are bracing for blowback after Sunday’s announcement. Matson said he is largely unconcerned with “online trolls” but is sensitive to people who are “legitimately concerned” that “accepting a trans person into religious life means Catholic anthropology gets thrown out the window.”

For people with such concerns, he said, he looks forward to engaging in dialogue. “I don’t have a hidden agenda, I just want to serve the church,” he said. “People can believe that or not.”


Both the hermit and his bishop are prepared for the possibility that church officials may push for Matson’s removal. Stowe acknowledged that “if I’m told to by higher authorities, then I will have to deal with that at the time.”

Matson bristled at the idea of leaving the church, which he called “my family.” “I’m Catholic,” he said. “I became Catholic after I transitioned because of the Catholic understanding — the sacramental understanding — of the body, of creation, of the desirability of the visible unity of the church, and primarily because of the Eucharist.”

At the very least, Matson said, he hopes going public will spark dialogue about his fellow transgender Catholics, a discussion he believes can enhance unity among the body of believers.

“You’ve got to deal with us, because God has called us into this church,” he said. “It’s not your church to kick us out of — this is God’s church, and God has called us and engrafted us into it.”

Complete Article HERE!

He feared coming out.

— Now this pastor wants to help Black churches become as welcoming as his own

Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley

By DARREN SANDS

It was daunting when the Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley, at age 22, replaced a beloved pastor who had ministered to one of suburban Boston’s most famed Black churches for 24 years.

It was more daunting — at times agonizing — to reach the decision six years later, in 2015, that God wanted him to tell his congregation that he was gay.

To his relief, most of the worshippers at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, Massachusetts, embraced him. Crowley’s career has flourished, and he has now written a book — “Queering the Black Church” — that he hopes can serve as a guide for other congregations to be “open and affirming” to LGBTQ+ people rather than shunning them.

The Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley speaks during Sunday service at Myrtle Baptist Church Sunday, May 5, 2024 in Newton, Mass. Crowley has written a book — “Queering the Black Church” — that he hopes can serve as a guide for other congregations to be “open and affirming” to LGBTQ+ people rather than shunning them.

Crowley, 37, was born in Atlanta and raised in Rome, Georgia. He admired the preachers he heard as a child, especially at Lovejoy Baptist Church, his home congregation.

One Sunday, however, the pastor preached a fiery sermon against homosexuals.

“He called them all types of names, using derogatory phrases and really describing it as a detestable group and a sinful thing, and I just sort of knew he was talking about me,” Crowley said in an interview. “That was my first introduction to really knowing the beauty of who I am as a queer person.”

Crowley said his great grandmother repeatedly assured him that he was made in the image of God. She also told him about getting pregnant at 14 — and breaking away from her own church after refusing its demand to apologize to the congregation.

“She would say, ‘God loves you,’” Crowley recalled. “She said, ‘They almost made me take my own life when I was pregnant, but I came to know a God beyond the church, and I’ve got beyond what these preachers say.’”

The Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley speaks during Sunday service at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, Mass., on Sunday, May 5, 2024. Myrtle, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, takes pride in its progressive, inclusive congregation, but many Black churches and denominations in the U.S. remain opposed to celebrating same-sex marriages or ordaining openly LGBTQ+ clergy.

Nonetheless, throughout this period, Crowley felt he was called to be a Christian pastor — a preacher of the social justice gospel.

Believing he had to hide his sexual identity in order to pursue that calling, he began dating a girl at Lovejoy.

He had still not come out by the time he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, joining its Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel Assistants program. While at Morehouse, he said, he experienced his first serious romance with a young man, but led his family to believe it was a non-romantic friendship.

After graduating from Morehouse, Crowley was accepted by Harvard Divinity School. He considered abandoning his dream to be a preacher, and instead “write books about the Black church being dead.”

But one of his friends, convinced of his spiritual talents, encouraged Crowley to apply for the open pastorate at Myrtle Baptist — less than 10 miles from the divinity school.

Soon after he expressed initial interest, Crowley said, he received word that he was “exactly” what Myrtle’s search committee was seeking. He recalled his inner reaction: “I was, like, ‘What are y’all talking about? Like, I’m gay! This can’t happen.’”

But he stayed in the running for the job — even breaking away from a weekend Gay Pride party in Miami to get back in Boston in time to preach at a service attended by the search committee.

Before long, Crowley was named a finalist. His closest mentors were split over whether he should tell Myrtle’s leaders about his sexuality or stay quiet on that topic while doing a good job as preacher. He chose the latter course — and operated that way for six years after his election as Myrtle’s new senior pastor in 2009.

The Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley speaks during Sunday service at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, Mass., on Sunday, May 5, 2024. In his book, Crowley notes that the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. crusaded against homosexuality during his 1908-1936 leadership of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church — one of the most prominent Black churches in the country.

But over time, Crowley said, he realized “I could only really do the work of God if I operated from a place of real authenticity.”

He also found love in the church. Crowley first met Tyrone Sutton, his partner of three years, when he was guest preaching. Sutton was sitting at the organ. On one of their first dates they sang and played music together.

Periodically during his life, Crowley said, he heard a voice he believed was coming from the spirit of God. He says it first spoke approvingly of his same-sex attraction as a child in 1993, after he was rebuked by a relative for saying that a male character on a sitcom was “so fine.”

“God doesn’t like that,” the relative said. But Crowley recalls hearing the voice tell him that God had made him that way. He says he heard it again at age 12, beckoning him to a life in ministry. And years later, as an adult, he said it would guide him through the emotional process of breaking up with a girlfriend after telling her about his homosexuality.

But those occasions all occurred in private. In the spring of 2015, Crowley says he was sitting in Myrtle’s pulpit one Sunday when he heard the voice speaking to him — telling him it was time to come out.

“Are you crazy? These people are going to put me out,” Crowley recalls telling the voice that was urging him to share the truth.

But minutes later, a tearful Crowley did just that — announcing to his congregation, “I am a proud, Black, gay Christian male.”

“We already knew, reverend,” one church mother told him. “We were just waiting on you.”

Some congregation members decided to leave Myrtle after the announcement, but mostly there was strong support for the pastor. Myrtle’s pews swelled with new members, many of them gay, and Crowley felt emboldened look beyond Newton and take aim at the broader realm of the Black Church.

This year, his first book, “Queering the Black Church: Dismantling Heteronormativity in the African American Church,” was published by Oxford Press.

In the book, Crowley recounts more than a century of Black Christian preaching that was often laden with homophobic diatribes, and broad characterizations of homosexuality as sinful. He notes that the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. crusaded against homosexuality during his 1908-1936 leadership of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church — one of the most prominent Black churches in the country.

Myrtle, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, takes pride in its progressive, inclusive congregation, but many Black churches and denominations in the U.S. remain opposed to celebrating same-sex marriages or ordaining openly LGBTQ+ clergy.

The Rev. Karmen Michael Smith, who wrote “Holy Queer,” about the gift of being a gay Black Christian, and lectures frequently on the topic, said he’s not as optimistic as Crowley that Black churches can be “queered.” For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, Black churches are the site of trauma and exclusion, he said.

“Those folks aren’t coming back,” Smith said.

It remains a volatile issue in some quarters. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, for example, is expected to vote at an upcoming national meeting on a measure which would allow AME pastors to conduct same-sex marriages.

While pastoring at Myrtle, Crowley earned a Ph.D. from Boston University’s School of Theology. He hopes to become a professor as well as a preacher, he said via email, “further serving my Queer and Black communities in both spiritual and scholarly contexts.”

The Rev. Martha Simmons, an expert in Black preaching and founder of the advocacy group Women of Color in Ministry, became a mentor for Crowley after appearing at Morehouse as a guest speaker. She describes him as perhaps the most gifted of all the students she has encountered in her career.

“The most impressive thing about Brandon is that it’s really hard to be queer in a Black Baptist world, and that’s what he’s been in for most of his adult life,” Simmons said. “And he handles it all so well.”

Complete Article HERE!

Orthodox Church ordains female deacon

Angelic Molen of Zimbabwe was ordained a deaconess in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and of All Africa, a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

by Martin Barillas

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa ordained Zimbabwean Angelic Molen as a deaconess in the Orthodox Church. Taking place on May 2, Orthodox Holy Thursday, the ordination was conducted at St. Nektarios Mission Parish near Harare, Zimbabwe, by the archbishop of Zimbabwe, Metropolitan Serafim.

The St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess, a U.S.-based organization that has advocated for reviving the ancient female diaconate, said in a press release that Molen’s ordination would prepare the way for the restoration of the role in other branches of the Orthodox Church. The group’s board chair, Dr. Carrie Frost, wrote: “Being the first to do anything is always a challenge, but the Patriarchate of Alexandria has courageously chosen to lead the way with Metropolitan Serafim laying his hands on Deaconess Angelic.”

According to the release, Molen said: “At first I was nervous about going into the altar, but when Metropolitan Serafim blessed me to enter the altar as part of my preparation this week, those feelings went away and I felt comfortable. I am ready.” According to the St. Phoebe Center, Molen was well received by her community and parish.

“The Alexandrian Patriarchate in Africa felt the need to revive this order to serve the daily pastoral needs of Orthodox Christians in Africa,” the release read. Metropolitan Serafim said that Molen will have both liturgical and pastoral roles. He said: “She is going to do what the deacon is doing in the liturgy and in all the sacraments in our Orthodox services.”

Metropolitan Serafim said that Angelic Molen will have both liturgical and pastoral roles. Credit: St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess
Metropolitan Serafim said that Angelic Molen will have both liturgical and pastoral roles.

Serafim added that “one of the most important fields of work of the deaconess was the exercise of the works of love. They were the angels of mercy and the visiting sisters of the sick, the ‘grieving’ and poor women, imparting to them the gifts of Christian love.”

One of the important functions of deaconesses will be to distribute the Eucharist, even while their role will not be identical to the work of their counterparts of more than 1,000 years ago. However, he noted that “we must admit that women can offer the Orthodox Church a great missionary work,” as well as evangelism and teaching, and highlighted their missionary, catechetical, and teaching work. After her ordination, Molen distributed the holy Eucharist, which in the Byzantine rite is given via spoon and includes the body and the blood.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa has been on the way to diaconal ordination of women for several years. At a 2016 synod in Alexandria, Egypt, the Patriarchate voted to reinstate the female diaconate. In 2017, the Patriarchate ordained six sub-deaconesses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Among the functions of deaconesses may be baptism, which in Orthodox churches is conducted by full immersion. In the early Church, full immersion for adults was followed by anointing of the whole body, which required the assistance of deaconesses for the sake of propriety.

According to the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, the only mention of a deaconess in the Bible is in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (16:1), which refers to Phoebe as diakonos or “servant,” even while no official status was implied. However, citing testimony by Roman author Pliny, the encyclopedia says “there can be no question that before the middle of the fourth century women were permitted to exercise certain definite functions in the Church and were known by the special name of diakonoi or diakonissai.” The fourth-century apostolic constitutions include instructions for the ordination to the female diaconate.

Despite the ancient practice, Pope Francis has declared it is impossible for women to be ordained to the priesthood or diaconate.

Complete Article HERE!