Vatican Affirms Exclusion of Women from Deacon Roles Amid Broader Discussions on Church Reform

VATICAN CITY – Women must take a more significant role in the Catholic Church, but they will not be allowed to serve as deacons, according to preliminary conclusions from a synod opened in 2021 by Pope Francis. This decision comes after a comprehensive consultation initiated by the Argentine Jesuit on various doctrinal topics, including the participation of women in church functions.

According to Burkina Information Agency, which took place in October 2023 at the Vatican, the topic of women’s roles within the Church was central to discussions. The report noted the division between feminist groups seeking greater inclusion and conservative factions expressing concerns. Despite acknowledging the need for more significant participation of women in ecclesial life, the assembly decided against introducing female deacons.

The Synod highlighted several issues ranging from lay participation in parish activities to the promotion of women in liturgical functions, along with topics like divorce, homosexuality, poverty, individualism, and even polygamy in Africa. Throughout the global discussions, many participants called for greater access for women to leadership roles within the Church’s dioceses, seminaries, and theological faculties. However, there is firm opposition to ordaining women as deacons or priests.

This ongoing dialogue reflects Pope Francis’s broader agenda to reform Church governance into a less hierarchical structure more accessible to its 1.3 billion followers. The findings from this consultation will be further debated during a second synodal session from October 2 to 27.

Notably, this Synod represents a historic shift as, for the first time, women—54 religious and lay participants among 365 members—had voting rights equal to those of bishops on proposals submitted to the pope. Nevertheless, the pope has already dismissed the possibility of female deaconesses in a recent interview, emphasizing the continuation of theological reflection on the matter without immediate changes.

The synod’s outcomes do not explicitly address the position of LGBTQ+ people within the Church, although some advocacy groups interpret the calls for greater dialogue and listening as a step towards more inclusivity.

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