Thursday, March 28, 2019

Evidence of Woman Bishop in Early Church

Unpublished letter to Irish Times:

In answer to the letter penned by C.D.C Armstrong (letters 25 March ) against Ursula Halligan's excellent article I refer him to  a fresco unearthed in an Italian catacomb that proves that women were acting as Bishops in the early Christian church.

The 5th century image of a woman named Cerula, found in the catacomb of San Gennaro, Naples, in 1971 shows her surrounded by open, flaming Gospel books, which are  symbolic of the role of a bishop.

Academics said the discovery was “incredibly significant”, evidence that women held senior roles in the early Christian church and could mean that millions will have to rethink the origins of their faith.  Further his fresco is significant as it preceded a letter written by Pope Gelasius to southern Italian bishops in the late 5th century to complain that women were ministering at holy altars.

At some point thereafter, the pope’s demands for such women to stop their work were obeyed and the memory of these ministering women were suppressed.

However this fresco remains as historical evidence of the important role played by women in the early church.


Brendan Butler, 45 The Moorings Malahide, Co. Dublin.

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