Letter just in from our Catholic sisters
We have been asked many times why we call for a reinstatement of the diaconate for women. After much research, we have amassed evidence to prove that there were women deacons in the early church. The ordination of women deacons in the early Greek and Syriac speaking dioceses was clearly a real, sacramental ordination, equal to the ordination of male deacons based on the fact that in the ordination rituals, both the ordination of a deacon and of a deaconess is called cheirotonia, i.e. Greek for 'imposition of hands', 'ordination' and both the male and the female deacon are ordained by the Bishop. http://www.womenpriests.org/deacons/deac_ord.asp
There is plenty of evidence that women were ordained as deacons. Tens of thousands of women deacons served in parishes during the first millennium as is witnessed by literary records, inscriptions on tombs and 22 women deacon saints in the current liturgical calendar. At least 106 women deacons are known to us by name and ancient manuscripts have preserved the exact rite or ordination of women deacons. For instance the tombstone of Athanasia (of Delphi) reads :
"The devoted deaconess Athanasia, who lived a blameless life decorously, installed as deaconess by the most holy bishop Pantamianos, set up this memorial.".
Petition goes to Rome.
At last women's voices are being heard in the heart of Rome. Whereas, no women were included in the 2002 synod, six women participated as experts in the October 5-26 World Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. 19 women also present as auditors, making a total of 25 out of 240 delegates. Ten per cent of delegates is clearly not enough but it is a start.
At the same time, representatives from Church reform movements from all over the world joined together in Rome to call for full and equal participation of women in the Church, including ordination as deacons, priests and bishops. On the Feast of St Teresa of Avila, one of only three female Doctors of the Church, a press conference launched a weeklong campaign of women's ordination events.
The exclusion of women from ordination matters because the Vatican has enormous cultural and political influence in international affairs, a seat at the United Nations and the ability to meet almost at whim, with powerful Heads of State. Without the assistance of women's experiences in most Church decision-making bodies, the Vatican's influence on public policy regarding women's issues, especially in developing countries with large Catholic populations, has been devastating.
Following the press conference, the Petition calling for the diaconate to be restored to women, which had been coordinated by http://www.womenpriests.org/. and signed by 26 organisations representing 40,000 people, and 1700 individuals was taken to hand in at the Bronze Doors of the Vatican. After being confronted by the police the petition was finally handed over to the top Vatican security officer who told the women politely that they could not go any further and that he would make sure the Petition reached the Pope! So far there has been no reaction from the Vatican, so it has been decided to keep the petition alive collecting signatures until the Pope responds. The hierarchy must be awakened to the reality that it would neither be sacrilegious, contrary to nature nor a departure from sanctified Church law, to ordain women.
YES WE CAN! With God's help we will bring beneficial change into our Church.
Best wishes and prayers
Leonie Russell Editor