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Ordination of Women to the Diaconate in the Eastern Churches

Thequestion of restoring women to the ordained diaconate surfaced during the Second Vatican Council and continued to resound in academic and pastoral circles well after Pope Paul VI restored the diaconate as a permanent state for the church in the West in 1967. Available for the first time in English, these two documents by Cipriano Vagaggini, OSB. Cam., on the historical details of women ordained as deacons in the Greek and Byzantine traditions demonstrate that women were sacramentally ordained to the major order of deacon over the course of many centuries in many parts of the Greek and Byzantine East. Vagaggini introduces the conclusions to his study by noting that "in Christian antiquity there were different beliefs and tendencies distinguishing between ministry and ministry, ordination and ordination, with regard to the nature and significance of the respective orders or ranks."
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About the Author

Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence and adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University and founding co-chair of the Roman Catholic Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion. The author or editor of eighteen books in religious studies, including Catholic Press Association and College Theology Society book award winners, Zagano is also the series editor of the Spirituality in History Series published by Liturgical Press.


These previously untranslated essays by Cipriano Vagaggini are a comprehensive argument in support of the church's practice of ordaining women as deacons and merit very careful study as the issue is discussed today. Emil A. Wcela, Auxiliary Bishop emeritus, Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, Past President, Catholic Biblical Association of America At a time when we desperately need the ministry of women in the church these pieces help to show not only the historical reality of the diaconate for women but also the fact that no theological argument whatsoever stands in the way to ordaining women to this ministry. John F. Baldovin, SJ, Professor of Historical & Liturgical Theology, Boston College School of Theology & Ministry The discussion surrounding the possibility of the ordination of women to the diaconate has simmered among church historians and theologians for many decades... This debate needs to be as deeply and widely informed as possible. It may form part of Pope Francis' request that more space' (spazio) be given to the ministry of women in the Catholic tradition. We are in deep debt to Phyllis Zagano and Liturgical Press for making this precious study available to us in English for the first time. Francis J. Moloney, SDB, AM, FAHA, Senior Professorial Fellow, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia, Past President, Catholic Biblical Association of America Finally! A superb translation of Vagaggini's indispensable writings on the female diaconate. Subsequent studies have generally confirmed Vagaggini's interpretations, but they remain a must-read. No discussion of this vital issue should take place without reference to these texts. And in addition to everything else, they prove how important it is for the Catholic Church to "breathe with both lungs." Archpriest Peter Galadza, PhD, Kule Family Professor of Liturgy, Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Past President, Societas Orientalium Liturgiarum This fine translation of two of Cipriano Vagaggini's essays on women's ordination to the diaconate in the Eastern tradisionis Phyllis Zagano's latest of many important contributions to the understanding of the ordination of women to ecclesiastical office in early Christianity... In August 2013, Pope Francis declared that it was important, even necessary to give women more space (spazio) in the church. A rereading of these two essays by Vagaggini, so masterfully translated by Zagano, could fortify that papal hope and endow the reintroduction of an ancient tradition with scholarly and historical gravity. Kevin Madigan, National Catholic Reporter

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