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Properly ordained women priests (presbyterae?)

Women Priests in the Ancient Church

About valid Tradition

Scriptural Tradition Latent Tradition Dynamic Tradition Informed Tradition Valid Tradition

1. Properly ordained women priests (presbyterae?)

In the Early Church it has never been a general practice to ordain women as priests for reasons explained elsewhere. Moreover, the term 'presbytera' could have a variety of meanings. It usually meant being a 'priest's wife'.

However, there may have been exceptions to this general rule. It is possible that in the South of Italy some women were ordained priests.

Some evidence can, peerhaps, be found both in archeological inscriptions and historical records. Read these documents:

For more ancient times read:

Here is a tombstone for the Catholic woman priest Leta in South Italy, 4th cent. AD.

See also:

2. Women in pastoral leadership roles

There are also examples of women involved in a variety of pastoral ministries.

  • In the second-century ‘New Prophecy’ movement, which was originally not a heresy, Prisca and Maximilla were leading prophets. See the article by Anne Jensen.
  • Both in East and West sacramentally ordained women deacons served the parishes.
  • An overview of women in the West serving in ministries can be found here.
  • In the early sixth century, three bishops from the region of Lugdunensis (present-day Lyon ) in France: Licinius of Tours, Melanius of Rennes, and Eustochius of Angers, attempted to restrain two Celtic priests who encouraged the participation of women in the liturgy.
  • Until the 16th century, in the Basque regions of France and Spain, socalled soreras or freilas exercised a female ministry that is probably a remnant of the early women's diaconate.

John Wijngaards



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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.

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