Challenges for Restoring the Byzantine Female Diaconate for Present Times

A tough isssue. Religious misogyny is one of the worst plagues of our time.

Public Orthodoxy

by Ashley Purpura

Pope Francis’s recent call for a commission to explore the possibility of reinstating the female diaconate in the Catholic Church resonates with over a century of similar calls among leaders and laity of the Orthodox Church. These calls for restoring the female diaconate within the Eastern Orthodox Church have been supported by prominent theologians and hierarchs. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I even stated in 1995 that, “There is no canonical difficulty in ordaining women as deacons in the Orthodox Church,” and in 1997, that the “order of ordained deaconesses is an undeniable part of tradition” and that “there are already a number of women who appear to be called to this ministry.”

Despite hierarchical endorsement, consensus of various international conferences, intermittent examples of elevating nuns to the rank of deacon over the past century, and attempts to form centers for training female candidates for the diaconate, no successful…

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