The commission Pope Francis appointed to study the history and identity of women deacons did not reach a unanimous conclusion about whether deaconesses in the early church were “ordained” or formally “blessed”, the Pope has said.
“What is fundamental is that there was no certainty that there was an ordination with the same form and same aim as the ordination of men,” the Pope told reporters flying with him from North Macedonia to Rome on May 7.
Pope Francis spent just under half an hour on the short flight answering questions, including about the study of women deacons he commissioned in August 2013.
After the six men and six women scholars on the commission finished their work, he said, there was “some agreement”, but not on the crucial question of whether women were ordained or solemnly blessed like abbesses are.
“Some say there are doubts,” the Pope said. “Well, then, let’s study some more. I don’t have a problem with that.”
At a May 2016 meeting with the women’s International Union of Superiors General, leaders of women’s religious orders, one of them had asked the Pope, “What prevents the Church from including women among permanent deacons, as was the case in the primitive Church? Why not constitute an official commission to study the matter?”
The Pope had told the sisters that his understanding was that the women described as deaconesses in the New Testament were not ordained like permanent deacons are. Mainly, he had said, it appeared that they assisted with the baptism by immersion of other women, with anointing women and with giving witness on behalf of women seeking a dissolution of their marriage because their husbands beat them.
However, the Pope had promised to set up the commission, and two of the scholars said in January that they had completed their work. The Pope did not tell reporters what steps, if any, would come next.