Can women become deacons?

As things stand, women cannot be ordained as deacons. The question is being considered, however, by a Commission set up by Pope Francis in May 2016 to examine whether women could serve as deacons. It is true that there were deaconesses in the early church (e.g. Phoebe mentioned by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans) but it is not so clear if they were ordained. The word ‘deacon’ comes from the Greek word ‘Diakonia’ which means ‘service’. There is a distinction between ‘ordained deacons’ and ‘deacons’ understood as offering a particular service to the Church. There was, certainly, a liturgical ‘laying on of hands’ and ‘invocation of the Holy Spirit’ as part of women’s reception into the role of deaconess, but scholars are divided as to the true meaning of this ritual and whether it constituted ordination as such. Until this matter is clarified, the status quo remains, i.e. that women cannot become deacons.

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