“Do not stifle topic again”

Sr. M. Katharina Ganz OSF © Bayerischer Rundfunk

Audience with superiors general © Osservatore Romano (CBA)

"A grain of hope," is what the Superior General of the Oberzell Franciscan Sisters, Sister Katharina Ganz, calls the Pope's announcement to have the diaconate of women reviewed. She is also not surprised about denials from the Vatican.

Interviewer: You must tell us how it came about that Pope Francis touched this hot potato, the diaconate of women.

Sister Katharina Ganz (Superior General of the Oberzell Franciscan Sisters in Wurzburg): It was not Pope Francis who took up the hot potato, but we, the Women's Association of Superiors General, who meet in Rome every three years, were allowed to ask the Pope questions in advance. He also received this around Easter. He wanted us to read the questions back to him at the meeting. The complex of questions dealt very decidedly with the role of women in the Church, with the possibility for women to preach also in the Eucharistic celebration, with the diaconate of women, which was presented very strongly from the Brazilian section and also from Europe and North America. Especially for South Americans, it would be a very important concern that women can finally be ordained as deacons. That's why we brought these questions into the conversation and the Pope, thinking and reflecting, took up this suggestion that he could set up a commission to look into it.
Interviewer: So you have touched the iron, but the pope has accepted it, or?
Sister Katharina: He took it up at least once. In the meantime, the Vatican is already rowing back mightily, as one already knows from other topics. The hotter the iron, the more sensitive the matter, the more one tries to relativize again in retrospect: The Pope would not have meant it that way. He just wants to set up a historical commission to study the diaconate of women in the ancient church and find out what powers women deacons had at that time, they say. Honestly, though, I don't think Pope Francis is interested in a commission that works purely historically. We know Pope Francis, how he is interested in pastoral solutions for the current questions of the Church, of the present time. That was also the direction in which we asked him this question.
Interviewer: Even if a commission would come to the conclusion that women deacons played an important role in early Christianity, this does not mean that in the end women can really be ordained as deacons. As a woman in your church, don't you often feel discouraged??
Sister Catherine: For a very, very long time. I was still in kindergarten in 1975 when the German Synod presented all the plans, concepts and drafts for a women's diaconate in Rome. They have been slumbering in the Vatican ever since. In the past decades, women's organizations such as the Catholic Women's Federation, the Catholic Women's Community of Germany and even Cardinal Lehmann have worked on this ie. There has been no progress in Rome on this ie. That's why this is just a tiny grain of hope that has sprouted up for us. Still, we have a vested interest in seeing the ie taken up and women around the world not slowed down. We have to work on it, no matter what the pope has meant. The subject must be put back on the agenda of the Catholic Church.
Interviewer: In the Catholic Church, the following still applies: No ordained offices for women, honorary offices yes. Don't you see the danger that more and more young women will turn away from such a church, in which they feel that they are not taken seriously, appreciated and treated fairly??
Sister Catherine: It's not just a danger, it's a reality. That worries me more and more. The younger generation, but also women in older years and also men are increasingly frustrated, resigned and turn away. This goes through all classes and also through both sexes. I know very many priests, deacons and professors, theologians and also lay people, who in the 21. You would wish for a different ministry structure for the church in the twenty-first century and resignedly leave or turn your back on the church altogether.
Interviewer: Do women have any way to put prere?
Sister Catherine: There is no denying that Catholic women's orders and religious congregations in general belong to the heart of the Catholic Church. This very gathering, from which I am returning for the first time, has been so inspiring: 870 women religious, all representing one community, with hundreds of thousands of members around the world, serving the poor and sick, educating children, protecting girls from prostitution, or sheltering refugees. All these sisters and many brothers serve people and embody exactly what the Gospel of Jesus Christ wants, what Church wants. I think we have to keep our eye on the ball so that this ie doesn't get stifled again.

The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.

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