The reports of the May 12 audience with the International Union of Superiors General centered on one question asked by a sister about why the Church does not include women in the permanent diaconate. The sister had referred to an ancient tradition in the Church in which there were female deacons, and suggested that a commission be established to study the possibility.
When asked about it again during his flight, the Pope gested that one Argentine president had said that “When you want something not to be resolved, make a commission.”
“We had heard that in the first centuries there were deaconesses,” he continued. “One could study this and one could make a commission. Nothing more has been requested.”
Reports quickly circulated following the May 12 event that Pope Francis was paving the way for the ordination of women deacons, and potentially even women priests. Holy See press office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi clarified in a May 13 statement that the Pope had no such intention.
During the June 26 in-flight presser, Francis reiterated the remarks made during the audience with women religious. He referred back to a Syrian theologian who had told him that there were women in the early Church who assisted bishops when dealing with other women, for the sake of modesty.
For instance, women would assist with baptisms of other women since it was the practice to fully immerse the candidate during baptism. The Pope also also cited an instance in which a bishop was approached by a woman who claimed her husband had beaten her; he called in a woman to assess the bruises on the body.