Reuters ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) — Pope Francis said Tuesday more study was needed on the role of women deacons in the early Christian Church, which eventually could affect decisions on the role of women today.
Speaking to reporters on the plane returning from a trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, Francis was asked about the results of a commission he set up nearly three years ago on the topic.
Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers, and as in the priesthood, must be men in today’s church. They may not celebrate Mass, but they may preach, teach in the name of the church, baptize and conduct wake and funeral services.
Scholars have debated the precise role of women deacons in the early church.
Some say they ministered only to other women, such as at immersion rites at baptism and to inspect the bodies of women in cases where Christian men were accused of domestic violence and brought before church tribunals.
Others scholars believe women deacons in the early church were fully ordained and on a par with the male deacons at the time.
“All the conclusions were different. They [the commission members] worked together but were in agreement only up to a certain point. Each has their own vision and it is not in accord with that of others,” Francis said.
“So they stopped working as a commission and they are studying how to move forward [individually],” he said.
The commission was made up of six women and six men under a president who is a bishop. Nearly all of the members are theologians and university professors. Of the six women, two are nuns and four are lay women.