Responsive image
Nederlands/Vlaams Deutsch Francais English language Spanish language Portuguese language Catalan Chinese Czech Malayalam Finnish Igbo
Japanese Korean Romanian Malay language Norwegian Swedish Polish Swahili Chichewa Tagalog Urdu
Proto Gregorian Sacramentary of Gregory I


The sacramentary of Pope Gregory I

as it was around 600 AD

We may deduce the ordination of women deacons as it must have been written in that - now lost - sacramentary. Pope Gregory I (590-604), also known as Gregory the Great, is credited with having assembled a semi-official sacramentary which included ordination prayers. This sacramentary is known as the Urgregorianum, the Proto Gregorian.

Women deacons in Rome?


It does not seem there were women serving in Rome as deacons at the time. Traditional Roman prejudice against the leadership of women, no doubt, played its part here. Also, there may have been less need of women deacons in Latin speaking parishes as there was in the Eastern part of the Church.

The British monk Pelagius (345-418), who spent time both in Rome and North Africa, seems to imply that women deacons are unknown in the West. In a commentary on 1 Timothy 3,11 he says: "Paul orders that women should be chosen on the same terms as deacons. From this we may conclude that he speaks of those women who are still called deaconesses in the East" (Migne, PL 30, 880).

Some Popes were not in favour of women in any ministry. The North-African Pope Gelasius wrote in 494 to the bishops of southern Italy: “We have heard with impatience that disrespect for sacred things have come to this level [among you] that even women are tolerated to administer at the sacred altars and that a sex which is not competent deals with all the matters which have been entrusted only to the service of men.” This probably referred to the presence in some regions of women serving as priests.

Official Church sanction

Ancient icon of the Council of Chalcedon

However, it would be a mistake to think that women were excluded from the diaconate by Church laws. The contrary was the case. The universal Council of Chalcedon (451), which was presided over by the papal legate Bishop Paschasinus of Lilybaeum, clearly presumed the legitimacy of ordaining women deacons when it decreed:

"A woman shall not receive the laying on of hands as a deacon under forty years of age, and then only after searching examination." Canon 15.

This decree was still in force at the time of Gregory the Great. It would be repeated by the Council of Trullo in 692. Also the church legislation under Emperor Justinian I (529-564) which contained many rules concerning women deacons covered Italy as well.

There were many Greek speaking Catholics, it should be remembered, in the diocese of Rome and in other dioceses of Italy for whom the ordination of women deacons was a fact of life. The ancient Barberini 336 manuscript was written in Italy.

Pope Gregory the Great's successor, Pope Boniface VIII (607), was of Greek extraction. He had been one of Gregory's trusted advisors who had represented the Pope at the imperial court in Constantinople (603-606). Omitting the diaconate of women from papal sacramentaries would have been unthinkable.

Inferring the original text

It is possible that the Proto Gregorian still had the full ordination rite for women deacons which we can infer for the ancient Roman sacramentaries. But the Hadrianum which is claimed to derive faithfully from the Proto Gregorian, offers a shorter version.

It is more likely that already the Proto Gregorian featured the shorter version only.

Prayer for women deacon's ordination in the Proto Gregorian Sacramentary

Remember that the ordination rite does not contain rubrics. But we know from the Synods that ordaining women as deacons required 'imposing hands' on them. Other documents mention the laying on of the diaconate stole.

During the earliest years, ordinations were usually performed on Ember Days.

Ordination of a woman deacon

as inferred from the Hadrianum

Ordination of a male deacon

as found in ancient Sacramentaries & Pontificals
here printed by way of comparison

To make a woman deacon



To make a (male) deacon


"Hear, o Lord, our petition and send down on this your maidservant the Spirit of your ordination so that, since you have conferred on her your heavenly office, she may obtain favour with your majesty and may present to others the example of a good life. Through."


Ordination prayer

identical for men & women!

More information here!



"Hear, o Lord, our petition and send down on this your servant the Spirit of your ordination so that, since you have conferred on him your heavenly office, he may obtain favour with your majesty and may present to others the example of a good life. Through."


Ministries of women in the West

gaul, italy, germany
north africa, gaul, italy
england, wales, ireland
southern italy, sicily
basque area, gaul, spain
england, germany

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.

Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.

The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.

Please, support our campaign
for women priests
Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.