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Vatican newspaper examines deaconesses and the early Church

September 29, 2016

Nearly two months after Pope Francis instituted a commission to study women and the diaconate, L’Osservatore Romano has published an article on deaconesses and the early Church.

Carlo Carletti, an archaeology professor at the University of Bari, said that the starting point for any examination of the topic is Romans 16:1, in which St. Paul refers to “our sister Phoebe, a deaconess.”

Of the 30 inscriptions that refer to deaconesses, said Carletti, 25 have been found in Asia Minor (in modern-day Turkey).

Carletti attributes this geopraphical concentration to the legacy of St. Paul, who included women in his missionary activity. In the West, on the other hand, “the diaconal ministry … remained constantly a male prerogative.”


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  • Posted by: filioque - Sep. 29, 2016 7:11 PM ET USA

    Why do we never hear that the first deacons appointed in Acts 6 were specifically not liturgical ministers, but were to see to the material charity of the community, freeing the Apostles for their proper role: "prayer and the service of the word"? At some point, the word deacon came to be used for men who had liturgical, sacramental roles. It is obviously a historical error to claim that "deacon" and therefore "deaconess" must be a liturgical minister.