From The Tablet: 

Almost two years since Pope Francis announced he would be re-forming a commission on the female diaconate, The Tablet can report it is due to hold its first meeting in Rome in the middle of next month.

The gathering of the commission comes just ahead of the launch of a global synod process which will bring lay people, priests and bishops in local churches together to discern new pastoral priorities. Women deacons are sure to be on the agenda.

Covid-19 has delayed the deacons’ commission work and the group have not met remotely. Pandemic permitting, members are expected in Rome for a week of discussions beginning on 13 September. Two members of the commission confirmed the September meeting with The Tablet.

An analysis of the commission members suggests an even split between those for and against female deacons, and the danger is a re-run of what happened with the first commission, which the Pope said was unable to reach agreement.

However, although those on that commission presented their evidence, they did not see what was submitted to the Pope by Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who had overseen their work.

A critical issue is the precise question the new commission will be asked to discuss. No one is disputing the presence of deaconesses in the early Church, but those opposed to reinstating women deacons argue they were not ordained, and only carried out tasks related to women, such as helping with their baptisms. Some of the commission members have expressed scepticism that the roles carried out by female deacons had roles similar to men.

But the new commission could be tasked with examining the nature of ordained diaconal service, and which tasks carried out by male deacons are impossible for women to perform.

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