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Australian RC Plenary Council supports women deacons

19 August 2022

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A candle in St Mary’s RC Cathedral in Sydney to mark the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia

A candle in St Mary’s RC Cathedral in Sydney to mark the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia

THE Australian Roman Catholic Church’s plenary council, held last month, voted in support of women deacons, after redrafted motions were brought on the council’s final day. The motion recommends that, “if the universal law of the Church” is modified to allow the change, “the Australian Bishops receive this possibility with openness and examine how best to implement it in the context of the Church in Australia.”

The council also supported a range of other moves to strengthen the position of women in the Church.

Two days earlier, motions supporting women as deacons and in other ministries had failed. Although clergy, religious, and lay members of the 277-strong council had voted in favour of the earlier motions, the Bishops’ vote, which is “deliberative”, had not reached the required majority.

Dozens of council members, mainly women, then walked to the sidelines in silent protest, disrupting the meeting’s agenda. In response, the motions were redrafted and brought back to the council on the final day. Although five of the 43 bishops voted against the women-deacons motion, it achieved the necessary two-thirds majority.

The president of the plenary council, the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Revd Timothy Costelloe, is quoted in the Brisbane archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Leader as saying that the dispute was “a challenging moment. . . There is a long way for the Church to go in the understanding of the proper role of women in the life of the Church,” he said.

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