Bishop in Brazil says he will ordain women to diaconate if pope permits it

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Vatican City, Oct 12, 2019 / 09:58 am (CNA).- A bishop participating in the Vatican’s Amazon Synod said Saturday he would ordain women in his communities as deacons if the idea is recommended by the synod and permitted by Pope Francis.

Bishop Dom Adriano Ciocca Vasino of the prelature of São Félix, Brazil said Oct. 12, there are women in his community who are already trained in theology, and “they know that if this synod, with the [permission] of the pope, opens up the possibility of the diaconate for women… I will ordain them.”

Ciocca spoke at a press briefing which took place during the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region, an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the region.

The bishop described to journalists a model of formation he uses in the prelature of São Félix, with a theology school open to both men and women.

After the completion of the four-year course, those men who wish to become priests are asked to spend several years living and working in local community, after which they are considered for ordination as deacons or priests, based in part on the recommendation of the community in which they live.

The idea that women could be ordained or commissioned in some way as deacons in the Church has been under discussion since Pope Francis appointed a commission to study the matter in 2016. The Church teaches definitively that only men can be ordained as priests or bishops, but some theologians suggest that women were ordained as deacons in the early centuries of the Church.

Other theologians suggest that ordination is a sacrament reserved to men, and that while women might be commissioned in some form of “diaconate,” a Greek word that means “service,” their commissioning would not be sacramental.

In May, Pope Francis told reporters that some on the Vatican commission have concluded that the historical “female diaconate” was different from the role of male deacons, namely becaue it did not include sacramental ordination.

“For example, the formulas of female diaconal ‘ordination’ found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess,” he said.

The pope added that others in the commission hold that there was “a female deacon formula,” but it is not clear whether it was a sacramental ordination or not.

A permanent deacon from Brazil, Francisco Andrade de Lima, told reporters that he is not opposed to the idea of women deacons, but that he thinks the question should be thought about in terms of the issue of vocations, rather than simply as a potential solution to a problem.

According to the Oct. 12 briefing participants, the topic of formation is important for the Church in the Amazon.

Proper formation of priests and lay people is a major challenge in the region, Bishop Rafael Cob García of the vicariate of Puyo, Ecuador, said.

Cob said he thinks the key to evangelization in the Amazon is inculturation and understanding lived reality. He also pointed out that the approach to evangelization in the cities must be very different to the approach taken in more remote areas.

To have “a Church with an Amazonian face,” new paths of formation and evangelization must be found, he said. For a Church with an Amazonian face, he noted, they also need vocations to come from the local communities, but the major challenge right now is a lack of formators and good formation at a local level.

Questioned about the importance of evangelization versus the importance of protecting minority indigenous communities from outside bad actors, Cob said both are important, but that these minority communities, like everyone, have a right to know about the salvific mission of Christ.

They need to be evangelized in a direct way, he said, pointing to the Church’s missionary mandate to bring Christ to all people.

Cob also said there is a need to protect indigenous from “greedy” multinational corporations that come into a space without concern for that space’s inhabitants. Their lives are threatened by this, he stated.

 

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