By Jennifer Brice

DENVER (CBS4) – There are new developments involving the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has given his blessing to begin to consider the idea of women in the clergy.

Pope Francis says his decision came after intense prayer to appoint a panel to study the idea of women deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. Religion Professor Phyllis Zagano is the only American on the commission.

“The church would be making a great statement about the dignity and place of women in the world,” Zagano said.

Pope Francis (Photo by John Paraskevas-Pool/Getty Images)

Pope Francis (Photo by John Paraskevas-Pool/Getty Images)

Known for his progressive stances, the pope’s decision to look into the possibility of women deacons differs from the views of his predecessors. He first entertained the idea last May after meeting with a group of women from various religious orders.

Father Kevin Burke, a trustee at Regis University, says Francis is known for being a good listener.

Father Kevin Burke is interviewed by CBS4's Jennifer Brice (credit: CBS)

Father Kevin Burke is interviewed by CBS4’s Jennifer Brice (credit: CBS)

“He listens to women,” added Burke. “I don’t mean to imply the other popes didn’t, but I think Francis is remarkable for that.”

Deacons are ordained ministers who can preach as well as preside over weddings and funerals. But they cannot celebrate mass. Historians say the idea of women in that role is not new to the Catholic faith.

Dr. Phyllis Zagano (credit: hofstra.edu)

Dr. Phyllis Zagano (credit: hofstra.edu)

Zagano says there are several popes in the Middle Ages who wrote to bishops giving them the authority to ordain women as deacons. Historians also believe the idea of women in the clergy can transform not only how women are seen in the church ,but in society as well.

Jennifer Brice is a reporter with CBS4 focusing on crime and courts. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @CBS4Jenn.

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