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Catholic Church Beliefs

May 13, 2016

Pope says he's willing to study whether women can be deacons

Pope Francis said Thursday he is willing to create a commission to study whether women can be deacons in the Catholic Church, signaling openness to letting women serve in ordained ministry currently reserved to men.


Francis agreed to a proposal to create an official study commission during a closed-door meeting with some 900 superiors of women's religious orders in Rome for their triennial assembly.


Deacons are ordained ministers but are not priests, though they can perform many of the same functions as priests: preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals, and preach. They cannot, however, celebrate Mass.


Currently, married men -- who are also mostly excluded from the Roman Catholic priesthood -- can serve as deacons. Women cannot, though historians say women served as deacons in the early Church.


The pope in no way signaled during a 75-minute conversation with the sisters that the church's longstanding prohibition on women priests will change. But asked if he would be willing to create a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons, Francis said he was open to the idea, according to the National Catholic Reporter and Catholic News Service, which had reporters in the audience hall.


The publications quoted Francis as saying: "I accept. It would be useful for the church to clarify this question. I agree."


Vatican Radio also reported on the pope's comments.