Francis' female deacon commission brings hope, caution

Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the heads of women's religious orders in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 12. During a question-and-answer session with members of the International Union of Superiors General, the pope indicated his willingness to establish a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons. (CNS photo / Paul Haring)

Pope Francis' announcement Thursday to create a commission to examine the history of female deacons in the Catholic church has left many longtime advocates with a sense of hope, joy and drive moving forward in their efforts to enhance female leadership in the church.

"I am standing on my head, I am happy, I am crying," Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, told NCR in a phone interview Thursday morning. "It is just a historic breakthrough of enormous proportion and the implications are far-reaching, as far as what women will be able to take on in the church."

Rose-Milavec said while the pope is likely to run into opposition from members of the Roman Curia and some theologian and scripture scholars, she does not believe it will deter him. "I don't have any doubts about it. . . . No concerns," she said of the opposition. "The UISG spoke very directly about this to him, and I think when he makes a promise to them in that way, it's not going to go away."

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