Women protesting in Limburg, Germany, for International Women's Day

German Bishops’ head wants permission from Rome to ordain female deacons; thousands of Catholic women protest for Church equality

The new German Bishops’ head has said he wants eventual permission from Rome to ordain women deacons.

– Calls on bishops, laity to unite in “very strong voice” in ‘synodal path’ to force Vatican’s hand

Bishop Georg Bätzing of the Limburg diocese, elected last week as the new chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, was speaking Sunday, on International Women’s Day, to German radio station WDR5.

Far from being excluded as in previous papal teaching, the possibility of the female diaconate is still very much alive today, Bätzing said.

The bishop argued that a call for women deacons could be one of the conclusions of the two-year German ‘synodal path’ reform process.

That’s the series of forums and assemblies looking to change aspects of Church life and discipline that cause and exacerbate clerical sex abuse and its cover-up, including compulsory priestly celibacy, a restrictive sexual morality, the authoritarian exercise of power or the exclusion of women from Church leadership.

But for a synodal path vote for women deacons to be heard in Rome – and for the corresponding “special permission” or “indult” to be granted regarding the ordination of women – “a very strong voice” from bishops and laity united in the cause is needed, Bätzing recognised.

The new head of the German Bishops’ Conference already said last week that “the topic of women in the Church is the most pressing question we [in the Church]have concerning the future”.

“That is where the Church really has a backlog. We won’t be able to wait. Women must be given equal rights”, Bätzing insisted soon after his election.

– “Catholic Women, We Are The Change!”: for International Women’s Day, gender justice protests in Germany, beyond

Bätzing’s remarks on the female diaconate came on the very same day that thousands of women in Germany and many more around the world demonstrated outside churches for Catholic gender justice.

Protests for the admission of women to ordained office in the Church and for the abolition of compulsory priestly celibacy took place in several cities in Germany, including Münster, Xanten, Munich, Hadamar, Hamburg, Hildesheim, Stuttgart and Cologne.

This last city saw over 700 male and female demonstrators demonstrating for equal rights for women in the Church, according to numbers from the protest conveners, the international Catholic women’s rights groups Voices of Faith and the Catholic Women’s Council.

With the slogan, “Catholic Women, We Are The Change!”, Church gender justice protests also took place in cities all around the world, in places as diverse as Kenya, India, the Philippines and Australia.

In Xanten in Germany, for example, around a hundred women and men gathered outside the cathedral in the town in North Rhine-Westphalia to demand an end to the exclusion of women and full equality and full transparency in the Church.

Women protesters decried the fact that their exclusion from Church leadership means they are “denied their basic human rights”, and is hardly in accord with the example of Jesus, who “did not distribute power, but instead called many… men and women”.

“Men don’t want to let go of their privileges”, other demonstrators claimed, while still others noted yesterday’s action might have come too late for younger women, “long gone” from a Church so alien to a broader society in which women’s demands for equality are accepted and understood.

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Next on Novena:

Catholic Women’s Council calls on Church groups around the world to fight for “dignity and equality” of women

Catholic women’s rights activist urges “anger” at patriarchy, “courage” to embrace feminism

Full statement: Irish Catholics warn hierarchy: “Women will no longer put up with second class status”

“Lack of reforms”, “rigid structures” blamed for mass Church desertions in German diocese

New German Bishops’ chair says place of women “most urgent question” for Church

German Bishops choose as new president reformer in favour of optional celibacy, more power for women

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Mada Jurado

Reporter and community manager at Novena
Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.
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