On May 12, during an interview with the religious women of the Union of Superiors Major, Pope Francis said he wanted to establish a study commission on women deacons in the early church. On the same occasion, Francis advocated again that women should enter the decision-making process because the Church needs their point of view. He also made distinction between service and servitude, imposed under the pretext of humility and women’s disposition to care.
To valorize women inside the Church, the way of the diaconate can be a good choice, especially considering that it is an institution already present in the early Church: but, as the theologian Marinella Perroni has recently stressed during a conference in Catanzaro, it is necessary to thank the Pope because, in a new communication style, in the name of “parrhesia” that is so dear to him, has really listened to women.
In fact, the Pope, during the conference with the sisters, called for direct and specific questions: those women were not supposed to be simply passive recipients of a speech! Thus, one of them asked about women deacons, urging the sisters to ask him questions freely. Francis really wanted to listen to women. Women theologians have been calling for it for a long time now, beyond all talk about women made by men.
After all, it is about meeting the requirements called for by the Second Vatican Council, which has prompted us to rethink the entire ministerial structure of the Church, in that germ awareness beautifully expressed by Cardinal Suenens who, turning to the other 2,500 fathers, asked that memorable question: “Where is the other half of humanity?”, alluding to the absence of women at the council meeting.
In Jesus’ praxis, the early Church was not “clerical and male”, and Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the de-clericalization of the Church. A new ministry for women can be a further invitation to keep on walking in this direction. But greater valorization of women inside the Church cannot begin if women themselves do not become more aware. In fact, the biblical scholar Dorothée Bauschke claims that “in the Church, as in society, this cultural revolution demands from men and women the humble recognition of the terrain too occupied by some or left empty by the others.”