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Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald Speaks at Conference in Thessaloniki

Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald, Adjunct Professor in Theology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, delivered two presentations at the conference on “The Deaconess, the Ordination of Women and Orthodox Theology” in Thessaloniki January 22-24, 2015.

More than two hundred theologians and clergy attended the conference, which was co-sponsored by the School of Theology of the University of Thessaloniki, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and the Center for Ecumenical, Missiological, and Environmental Studies. Nearly forty scholarly papers were presented.

The conference honored Emeritus Professor Evangelos Theodorou of the University of Athens. Over the past sixty years, his scholarly research, writings, and presentations have contributed greatly to the calls for the restoration of the order of the diaconate for women.

In his video address to the conference participants, Professor Theodorou emphasized the historical record regarding the ministry of women deacons in the early Church. He also affirmed that the restoration of the order of women deacons would strengthen the ministry of the Church and give a special witness of service in society.

Dr. FitzGerald was invited to offer the Laudatum in honor of Professor Theodorou because of her own scholarly studies of the diaconate and her friendship with him. She spoke about his distinguished career as a theologian and professor in Athens. She also related the story of how he became interested as a young scholar in the order of the diaconate for women. She noted that he is now recognized as the foremost scholar on the diaconate and the principal proponent for the restoration of the order for women.

In her second paper, Dr. FitzGerald examined the historic texts of the prayers and ritual for the ordination of woman deacons. Referring to the Divine Compassion revealed in Christ, she examined the themes found in the prayers for the ordination of women deacons, which go back at least to the 8th century. While the prayers are distinctive, she noted that the rite for the ordination of a female deacon is parallel to that of the male deacon.  

The conference proposed that the forthcoming Great and Holy Council consider the restoration of the order of the deaconess. The final communiqué of the conference unanimously recommended the restoration of the order of the diaconate for women. A portion of the conference statement says:

Most of the papers focused on the Order of Deaconesses (or women deacons), the restoration of which was adopted by all speakers, participants, and attendees. An institution so deeply, theologically, and historically rooted in our Orthodox tradition and, most importantly, with conciliar and canonical validity, despite falling for the time being into disuse, must be urgently revived in order to support and strengthen the authentic witness of our Church in society and the world. This, of course, does not mean that the role of laywomen in the Orthodox Church’s witness should not be vigorously encouraged.