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Vatican bans 'deceptive' formation programs for female deacons

Courses designed to form deaconesses in the Catholic Church have no doctrinal foundation and are therefore deceptive, the Vatican has warned in a new notification appropved by Pope John Paul II.

The document was jointly published this week by several Vatican bodies - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the Congregation for the Clergy.

Among the resolutions of the ecumenical meeting of Women's Ordination Worldwide, held in Ireland last July, was the promotion of formation courses for female deacons.

The Vatican congregations stated in the notification that such expectations "are lacking in solid doctrinal foundation and, consequently, can generate pastoral confusion."

"Since ecclesial ordination does not foresee the possibility of such an ordination, it is not licit to implement initiatives that, in some way, look to preparing candidates for the diaconal Order," the notification continues.

The Vatican reminds the faithful that the Church's ministries are not about power, but about service and, in this sense, as the magisterium explains, "opens other ample prospects of service and collaboration" for women in the ecclesial community.

The Congregations concerned made a special appeal to bishops to apply the directive.

The International Theological Commission, presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is studying the meaning of the term "deaconess" which the Church used at some periods of history.

Commission representatives told Zenit that women offer a "service" -- in the Greek sense of the word -- to the Christian community. The said this service should not be confused with the priestly ministry.