------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

400 - 500 AD


from a perspective of women in the Church


 

Timeline

before Christ
0-100 AD
100-200
200-300
300-400
400-500
500-600
600-700
700-800
800-900
900-1000
1000-1100
1100-1200
1200-1300
1300-1400
1400-1500
1500-1600
1600-1700
1700-1800
1800-1900
1900-1950
1950-2000
2000-2050

 

The diaconate of women flourished during this century.

 

The Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) decreed that “a woman shall not receive the laying on of hands as a deaconess under forty years of age, and then only after searching examination". This shows that the diaconate was unmistakably a common ecclesiastical ministry acknowledged by the universal Church.

In the Hagia Sophia Cathedral of Constantinople at this time, forty women deacons ministered under the leadership of Bishop St John Chrysostom.

St Olympias headed the women deacons at the catherdral. During the bishop's struggle with the Emperor Olympias took his side. Correspondence between the bishop in exile and Oplympias has been preserved. In his letters John addressed her as 'the reverend Deacon Olympias, loved by God'.

There is even evidence that in some parts of the Church, such as the South of Italy, women functioned as priests in their local parishes.



St Olympias



Women Deacons 400 - 500

The active ministry of thousands of women deacons during this century is attested to by numerous literary and archeological evidence .

Historical research proves abundantly that they received a full sacramental ordination.

On the tombstones, relatives or parishioners record the excellent services of the women deacons who baptised catechumens, cared for children and for the sick, shared their bread with the needy, 'welcomed strangers' and 'washed the feet of the saints' [i.e. of every person they met].

400-417
Deaconess. In Jerusalem?
400-407
Deaconess
407
Deacon
404-407
Deacon/deaconess encountered in Antioch
383-439
Deacon in Jerusalem. Founded a convent.
368-410
A friend of St John Chrysostom. She was ordained a deacon by him and was put in charge of all the deacons assigned to the great Church of St Sophia in Constantinople.
395-419
Relatives of St.Olympias, also ordained deacons
422-512
She was appointed by the Bishop of Paris to look after the welfare of all the consecrated women. She also taught the women catechumens and took care of the poor and needy.
423-451
Deacon
423-451
Deacon
428
Deacon of Antioch in Syria
448
Deacon
Early 5th century
Persia
d. 474
Patriarch Nektarios of Constantinople ordained her ‘to the priestly rank of the diaconate in Christ’
488-512
Deaconess and monastic superior
488-512
Deaconess and monastic superior
5th century
Deacon
5th-6th century
Deacon
5th-6th century
Deacon
5th-6th century
Deaconess
4th-6th century
Deacon
5th century
Deaconess of Delphi
5th century
Deacon on the island of Kos
5th century
Deaconess of Antioch

Women priests?

"Guilia Runa, priest"

There is evidence to accept that from the 2nd to the 6th centuries AD, some women functioned as priests in the South of Italy and in Sicily.

A tombstone mentions 'Guilia Runa, priest'. Another inscription of the 5th century records the life of 'Leta Presbitera': "Sacred to her good memory. Leta the Presbyter lived 40 years, 8 months, 9 days, for whom her husband set up this tomb. She preceded him in peace on the day before the Ides of May". The epitaph refers to a presbyter Leta, having died at just over forty, for whom her husband had set up a tomb; this inscription comes from the catacomb of Tropea, a small town that has offered the most consistent epigraphical and monumental documentation of Paleochristian Bruttium.

The testimony of Bishop Atto of Vercelli (9th cent.), has led Professor Giorgio Otranto to firmly conclude to the presence of ministerial women priests in the South of Italy and Sicily. See also the text of a lecture on the same subject.

Contrary to the official sanction of the women's diaconate, ministry by such female priests was not universally accepted in Church. In 494 AD Pope Gelasius I wrote 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.”

Local Church Synods and councils

The concern, as usual, is to reduce women's involvement in the Church. However, the Synod of Orange, whilst opposing the diaconate of women, acknowledges their existence in France.

418
Local regulations, claimed to derive from the 4th Synod of Carthage in North Africa.
441
France

 


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

See our Documented Appeal to Pope Francis to Request the Re-instatement of the Ordained Diaconate for Women.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Dear visitor, you are welcome to use our material. However: building up and maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but find it difficult to pay our overheads. Please, become a Friend or support us with a donation. Also, as some of you recommended to us, we are exploring how to generate income by advertising. Please, support us in this effort and send us your suggestions.
John Wijngaards

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Miriam Duignan


Please, support our campaign
for women priests

Visit our new websites:

Natural Law and Conscience

Synod on the Family 2015

Catholics and Contraception

Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
Email:
Name:
Surname:
City:
Country:
 
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.