The role of female laity must be “enhanced” so that they are brought into the decision-making process of the Church, Armagh’s new Auxiliary Bishop has said.
Speaking ahead of his ordination Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, Dr Michael Router told this newspaper that the majority of worshippers are female, and stressed that the Church couldn’t survive without their vital contribution.
Broaching the topic of female deacons, the former Kilmore priest said: “I think there’s a conversation that needs to continue in that whole area definitely. At least 75% – three quarters – of the people who helped me out and ministered along with me in parishes were women, and I suppose three quarters of the people who worship on a regular basis in parishes are women, so they’re already extremely involved,” he said.
While ongoing discussion about the ministerial roles of women in the early Church has not resulted in any change concerning their eligibility for the diaconate, Dr Router said that their position must be enhanced in some shape or form, especially given how instrumental they are in the Church’s everyday running.
“We couldn’t survive without them. It just wouldn’t be possible. But I do think their contribution does need further enhancement and it needs more development if we are to survive into the future.
“You know, the Church has to follow the lead of its founder Jesus Christ and he didn’t choose women as apostles but chose women to be part of his inner circle and they were always there at the most important and crucial times in his life,” Bishop Router told The Irish Catholic.
Recognising that this is a “sensitive” issue as it could cause a certain amount of division, Dr Router added that restoring women to a position of influence in the Church where they are brought into the decision-making process is “something we have to deal with”, and for some requires overcoming fears.
The Cavan native, who will be assisting Armagh’s Archbishop Eamon Martin in the diocese pastorally and administratively, also said that a parish can only function smoothly with the help of lay people and called for more training programmes to prepare them for this role.
“There’s just no way you could run a parish without having lay people involved. Once again, they need to be prepared for that. You just can’t throw people in at the deep end, there needs to be greater emphasis on adult education in the Church in Ireland to prepare people for those roles,” he said.
“Any young priest that’s coming out now to work in a parish, either from the seminary or coming in from abroad, that has to be an essential element of their ministry; that they would spend a lot of their time preparing adults to do the tasks that priests would have done in the past.”