ARCHBISHOP of Dublin Diarmuid Martin says the church must ensure that women are given responsible positions in the pastoral management of parishes.
His call for a greater involvement of women in the church was made after he ordained six men as deacons in Maynooth yesterday.
However, Dr Martin declined to back the recent call by German Archbishop Robert Zollitsch for a specific office of deacon for women. He said he did not know the details of what Archbishop Zollitsch had proposed.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Martin said that in his own diocese there were permanent deacons who are married or single lay men, as well as lay pastoral workers – many of whom are women – working alongside priests.
Dr Martin, who is a trustee of the National Seminary in Maynooth, said one of the characteristics of the church in Ireland from now on would be the emergence of an increasing number of permanent deacons.
Deacons hold a distinctive role in the church. For seminarians studying for the priesthood, it is the last phase in their formation before ordination.
It allows them to administer the sacrament of baptism, bless marriages and perform other functions in the church – but they cannot hear confession, give absolution, anoint the sick or celebrate Mass.
However, permanent deacons are lay men who are ordained specifically for this role. "I think they'll be a strong feature of the Irish church in the future," Dr Martin said.
The six deacons come from diverse backgrounds, including accountancy and teaching – and one was a funeral undertaker.