Click here if you don’t see subscription options

Pope Francis "did not say he intends to introduce a diaconal ordination for women," and he certainly did not speak about the ordination of women priests, the Vatican spokesman said.

Pope Francis met members of the International Union of Superiors General, the leadership group for superiors of women's orders, on May 12 and accepted a proposal that he establish a commission to study the role of New Testament deaconesses and the possibility of women serving as deacons today. After some news outlets reported the pope was considering ordaining women deacons and comments were made about women deacons leading to women priests, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi issued a clarification on May 13.

The spokesman insisted "it is wrong to reduce all the important things the pope said to the religious women to just this question." Women and the diaconate "is a question that has been discussed much, including in the past, and that comes from the fact that in the early church there were women who were called deaconesses, who carried out certain services within the community," Father Lombardi said.

Pope Francis told the sisters that he thought it would be a good idea to form a commission "to take up this question again in order to view it with greater clarity," Father Lombardi said. "But one must be honest: The pope did not say he intends to introduce a diaconal ordination for women and even less did he speak of the priestly ordination of women. In fact, talking about preaching during the eucharistic celebration, he let them know that he was not considering this possibility at all."

During the hour and a half long conversation about the mission and ministry of women in religious life, the pope responded to several delicate questions, according to the Vatican, including one where he was asked what prevents the church from including women among the permanent deacons, just like during the early church. Father Lombardi described the encounter between the Pope and the female religious as a “beautiful conversation” that was very “encouraging” about women and in particular about consecrated women in the life of the church, including their role in important positions within the dicasteries where ordination is not implied.

In a video statement May 13, Sister Carmen Sammut, superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Africa and president of the UISG, said the sisters "were quite excited by the fact that Pope Francis did not leave any question out; he really wanted to answer each of our questions."

"He was very strong about the fact that women should be in the decision-making processes and the decision-making positions of the church," she said.

"About the diaconate," she said, the sisters "had proposed that there would be a commission. He accepted that proposal and has said that he would bring that forward so that it could be studied even more than it has already. And I hope that one day there will be a real decision about this."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Lisa Weber
7 years ago
Pope Francis has opened the door to a dialogue about women deacons which is a very important step. Dialogue is how movement in the church begins.
Crystal Watson
7 years ago
I doubt anything will come of this off-the-cuff comment of his. The idea of women as deacons will be buried in another commission that will only have the power to make suggestions, and Francis, who is so down on women as priests, will let it die there.
Jack Rakosky
7 years ago
Pope Francis in the Joy of the Gospel has argued that making initiatives in time that go beyond the past is more important than occupying spaces, that these initiatives should not avoid conflict, be more sensitive to realities than ideas, and balance global and local concerns. Francis seems to taking many initiatives that are likely to bring Catholicism and Orthodoxy closer together in the future. Francis has explicitly praised the Orthodox for their synodal forms of government, and stated his aim is to make the government of Catholicism more synodal. In dealing with the divorced, Francis explicitly mentioned the Orthodox model of communion for people in second marriages without endorsing it. However his annulment reforms certainly give greater authority to the local bishop to expedite the annulment process. In discussions with individual bishops faced with small numbers of priests, he has encouraged them to develop with their fellow bishops in their conferences proposals for married priests. In regard to deacons, the Orthodox still have the rite for the ordination of women deacons in their liturgical books, and occasionally in unusual circumstances have used it. See Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church: http://www.amazon.com/Women-Deacons-Orthodox-Church-Holiness/dp/1885652224/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1463227610&sr=1-3&keywords=women+deacons A Roman Catholicism in which bishops conferences are pursuing diverse policies in regard to marriage, married priests and woman deacons within a general framework might be far more attractive to Orthodox than Catholicism micro-managed from Rome. However both liberal and conservative Catholics might be very unhappy with diverse, more locally managed Churches by bishops conferences!
Tim O'Leary
7 years ago
That was fast. But, how many times have we seen this happen in this papacy - an off-the-cuff remark, a clever colloquialism, or a strident criticism - that requires the Holy Father to send out his spokesman to clarify that the interpretation by the media was (intentionally?) off target? I suppose every papal communication style has had strengths and weaknesses.
JR Cosgrove
7 years ago
Tim, Remember, Frank the Hippie Pope by the Lutherans. http://bit.ly/1Owzfu9 Everybody should look at it for a laugh about Pope Francis's off the cuff remarks as seen by Lutherans.
Philip Cyscon
7 years ago
Bl. Paul VI asked a commission from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to clarify questions about the restored permanent diaconate, including the possibility of women deacons. This was in 1977. St. John Paul II commissioned a similar investigation in the early 90s. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did the same around 2007 through the International Theological Commission, an advisory body of CDF. Four times in 40 years might be quite a lot for the Church, but it isn't an odd thing to ask theologians to clarify an issue. There's no need to mock.
Tim O'Leary
7 years ago
Philip - I'm not mocking. Just noting that there are strengths and weaknesses with every communication style and every pope. Pope Francis is a remarkable pope and has been refreshing and confusing, sometimes at the same time. That's why people of all persuasions come away with different conclusions/hopes from his actions and sayings. I watch it all with the firm faith that the Holy Spirit will protect the Church.

The latest from america

A building burns after being bombed
The pope’s refusal to cheer either side in this war gives him credibility as mediator.
A Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, by Terrance Klein
Terrance KleinMay 31, 2023
A Reflection for the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Kerry Weber
Kerry WeberMay 31, 2023
pope francis speaks from his chair at the general audience, he gestures with his hand and smiles as he talks
In his general audience, Pope Francis discusses the apostolic zeal of Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit who successfully taught and spread the Gospel in China in the 1500s.
Pope FrancisMay 31, 2023