Final synod document expected to mention female deacons

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – As word spread that the final document of the Amazon synod will include recommendations about the ordination of women to the diaconate, bishops involved in the synod have taken a stand asking for more female participation and leadership in the Catholic Church.

“The participation of women in society and in the church is a question of mindset,” said Bishop Ricardo Ernesto Centellas Guzmán, head of the Bolivian episcopal conference. “We need to change that mindset so that not only does female participation increase, but it also becomes more significant.”

Guzmán spoke at the Wednesday (Oct. 23) news conference for the summit of bishops on the Pan-Amazonian region that began on Oct. 6 and concludes Sunday. Drawing from his experience of working closely with women in his own diocese, he said that while women represent a majority in the church, that is not reflected in leadership.

A view inside the Catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome. RNS file photo by Grant Gallicho

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This week has witnessed a surge in discussions surrounding the possibility that, as a result of the synod, women may be ordained as deacons, which means that they would be able to preach, distribute the Eucharist and officiate at weddings, baptisms and funerals. Deacons may not hear confessions or consecrate the Eucharist.

On Sunday, about 40 bishops attending the synod met in St. Domitilla in Rome to renew the “Catacomb Pacts” of 1965, which stand for a preferential option for the poor, a sustainable and respectful relationship with the planet and the promotion of women.

The bishops vowed to “recognize the services and real diakonia of a great number of women who today direct communities in the Amazon and seek to consolidate them with an adequate ministry of women leaders in the community.”

Women made their own stand on Monday, as members of Women’s Ordination Worldwide marched near the Vatican chanting “Empowered women will save the Earth; Empowered women will save the church.”

According to reports, including by Christopher Lamb from The Tablet, it is highly likely that the final document of this synod will address not only the contended question of ordaining married men to the priesthood, but it will also mention the female diaconate.

Synod participants divided into small groups last week to discuss the pastoral, spiritual and social needs of the Amazon and its people. The results of those discussions will be compiled by a group of revisers before being submitted to the assembly for a vote.

In the groups, known as circoli minori, bishops made numerous mentions of the role of women in the church and called for more positions of leadership. Some suggested the topic be discussed further, possibly in a specially dedicated synod.

According to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India, “canon law and theology can do much more to promote the role of women in the church,” beyond having the opportunity to celebrate Mass and distribute Communion.

“We are the church and we make the church,” said Brazilian Sister Roselei Bertoldo, an activist in the fight against human trafficking. “The fact that we were called to the synod not only to attend, but to be an active part of the synodal process, is the fruit of our asking to become protagonists.

“We ask to participate more efficiently at the decision-making level,” she added. “We are starting this journey. We won’t be quiet, we want space and we are starting to build that space.”