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Pope Francis on women deacons

Pope Francis is shaking things up in the Catholic Community again.

During a conversation with over 900 nuns, at a meeting of the International Union of Superiors General at the Vatican, the topic of how to integrate women further into the church was posed.

The conversation came around to a question by a nun who pointed out that women used to be deacons in the Catholic Church. She then asked would it make sense for Pope Francis to create a commission to study the question of whether or not there was historical evidence to support the reinstatement of women as deacons.

Perhaps, surprising everyone, the pope who made it clear from the beginning of his papacy that the door was closed to women being ordained, seemed to have a change of heart.

“I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this,” Pope Francis responded.

We spoke to Kathleen Cummings today, Associate Professor and Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame to find out what this means for women in the church.

“So, the good news about this is that Pope Francis has said it’s important to focus a concerted effort on trying to figure out what exactly is the historical precedent and what that might mean for the future,” said Cummings.

Though it’s unknown what role women deacons played in the past, the church today argues that women are not allowed to be ordained for two reasons: one is that Jesus is believed to have only ordained men into his disciples; and two is that because a priest must represent Christ, he must bear a “natural resemblance” to him.

However, scholars and theologians throughout history have disputed whether the “natural resemblance” to Christ is indeed gender or sex based or if it in fact encompasses a broader interpretation.

“Why is the argument based on sex? I mean by that argument you could say all priests must be 33 year old males from the Middle East,” remarks Cummings.

Professor Cummings tell us though the pope has made it clear that integrating women more into the church is very important, but details on how and when that may happen have not been made available.

She sees the question of women as deacons as merely one facet of what can be done, but hopes future communications with women will be more engaged.

“I think that the Catholic Church speaks an awful lot about women and women’s roles, but doesn’t often speak with women. I would hope that the commission that he’s going to establish would include the voices of a lot of women, theologians who have studied the question, women themselves who might feel called to become deacons and also women who do quite a bit of the work of the church already.

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