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Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald was an 18-year-old theology student when a priest at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School in Brookline, Mass., thrust a book into her hands. To her surprise, it was on ancient female deacons. “The priest told me, ‘You’re going to translate these (books),’” FitzGerald recalled of the volumes by a prominent Orthodox theologian who studied the history of ordained women.
FitzGerald, now a professor at Holy Cross, has carved a niche studying the role of women deacons in particular and has worked tirelessly for the right of women to be ordained.That prospect may now be a giant step closer to reality, since the Patriarch of Alexandria, who presides over the entire Orthodox Church in Africa, followed up on his 2016 decision to reintroduce women deacons and last month appointed six nuns to be subdeaconesses within the church. In a symbolic ceremony, the patriarch blessed the women and used other religious symbols to effectively restore women’s ordination within Orthodoxy. The move follows years of discussions within different branches of Orthodoxy on whether to reinstitute women deacons, and it comes at a time of growing interest around the issue within the Greek Orthodox Church, the largest Orthodox denomination in the U.S. James Skedros, dean of Holy Cross seminary and professor of Orthodox history, believes appointing female deacons will have a positive impact by showing people that “there are plenty of ministries in the church that women can and should participate in.” …According to Skedros, the African appointment is not technically an ordination but it may be a step in that direction. “It’s very significant because the Church of Alexandria has identified particular ministries in their church for women,” Skedros said. “It’s a big step – not historically but culturally.”
Curiously, the Romanian Orthodox news site has a story about the consecration, but refers to them as deaconesses, not subdeaconesses.
About the consecration:
On the feast of the Saint and Great Martyr Theodore of Tyre, 17 February 2016, the day on which His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa celebrates his name day, a festive Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Holy Church of St Nicholas, within the Missionary Centre of Kolwezi. Together with the Alexandrian Primate concelebrated Their Eminences Nicephorus, Metropolitan of Kinshasa, Innocent, Metropolitan of Burundi and Rwanda, and the local Metropolitan Meletios of Katanga, accompanied by the Clergy of the Hy Metropolis. As the official site of the Patriarchate reports, His Beatitude the Patriarch spoke during his homily about the Great Martyr St Theodoros, emphasising the confession of martyrdom before the persecutors of faith and his love for Jesus Christ. At the end of the Divine Liturgy the Primate of the Alexandrian Throne consecrated the Catechist elder Theano, one of the first members of the Missionary staff in Kolwezi, to “Deaconess of the Missions” of the Holy Metropolis of Katanga and read the prayer for one entering the “ecclesiastic ministry” for three Nuns and two Catechists, in order for them to assist the missionary effort of the Holy Metropolis, particularly in the Sacraments of Baptisms of adults and marriages, as well as in the Catechetical department of the local Church.