Courses for Women "Deaconesses" Ruled Out

They Are Deceptive, Say 3 Vatican Congregations

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2001 ( Courses for the formation of women “deaconesses” in the Catholic Church have no doctrinal foundation and are thus deceptive, the Vatican says in a new document.

The “notification,” approved by John Paul II, was published today by the Vatican Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith; for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and for the Clergy.

Among the resolutions of the ecumenical meeting of Women´s Ordination Worldwide, held in Ireland last July, was the idea to promote courses for the formation of women deaconesses. Some dioceses in the world have already started such courses.

The Vatican congregations stated in the notification that such expectations “are lacking in solid doctrinal foundation and, consequently, can generate pastoral confusion.”

“Since ecclesial ordination does not foresee the possibility of such an ordination, it is not licit to implement initiatives that, in some way, look to preparing candidates for the diaconal Order,” the notification continues.

The Vatican reminds the faithful that the Church´s ministries are not about power, but about service and, in this sense, as the magisterium explains, “opens other ample prospects of service and collaboration” for women in the ecclesial community.

Lastly, the Vatican congregations appeal to bishops to apply this directive and to know how to explain it to their faithful.

The International Theological Commission, presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, one of the signers of the document, is studying the meaning of the term “deaconess” which the Church used at some periods of history.

Asked by ZENIT, the commission´s experts said that women offered a “service” — in the Greek sense of the word — to the Christian community. But they added that this service was not connected to the priestly ministry.

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