Phyllis Zagano, a columnist for NCR and an academic who serves on a Vatican commission studying the possibility of women in the permanent diaconate, was featured in two recent programs on Canada's Salt+Light Television.
Zagano appeared in a June 18 episode of Salt+Light's ongoing "Witness" series to discuss the origins of women deacons in the Catholic Church and referred to the story of Phoebe delivering Paul's letter to the Romans. In Romans 16:1, Paul calls Phoebe a deacon of the church in Cenchreae, a village in the ancient Greek municipality of Corinth.
Zagano also discussed roles women deacons have had in Catholic Church history, including, but not limited to, ministering to the poor and to women.
"In no ancient culture would a man be ministering alone to a woman," Zagano told Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light, during the interview.
According to catholicwomendeacons.org, Canon 26 of the Council of Orange in 411 forbade the ordination of women deacons.
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In a June 3 broadcast of Salt+Light's "Subject Matters," a show based on discussions with book authors, Jesuit Fr. Luke Hansen asked Zagano how women deacons would contribute to the mission of the church today. She replied, "If the mission of the church is to preach the Gospel and to live the Gospel … Suppose a woman is vested, proclaiming the Gospel in St. Peter's Basilica. How does that help the mission of the church? What does that say about women? What does that say about what the church says about women worldwide? ... To me, the mission of the church is for all of us to hear and preach and to live the Gospel, and the first thing that the church can do is to live and hear and preach the Gospel by restoring women to that place as ordained deacons."
In 2016, Pope Francis appointed Zagano and 11 other people to the Papal Commission on Women in the Diaconate. Women make up half of the commission, which consists of clergy and laypeople.
"The job of the deacon is the word, the liturgy and charity and to insert women into this cadre of ordained ministers who are connected to the bishop … when they bless, they're extending the blessing of the bishop," Zagano told Sebastian Gomes, host of "Subject Matters." "By extending the blessing of the bishop to the people of God in the parish, they're really extending the blessing of the entire church of the locale back to itself."
Zagano was also recently honored in the Catholic Press Association Book Awards for her book Women Deacons? Essays with Answers, which was published in 2016. She won a first place award in the gender issues category.
Salt + Light Television is a Toronto-based Category B television channel that offers a variety of Catholic-related content via cable, satellite, online streaming and on-demand videos. Its show "Witness" showcases people who are influential within their Catholic communities and airs every Sunday at 7 p.m. & midnight with reruns on Monday at 12:30 pm, Thursday at 8 p.m. and midnight, and Friday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. "Subject Matters" airs Sundays at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time.
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