|"Guilia Runa, priest"
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
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.