VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis has set up a panel to study whether women could serve as deacons, a role now reserved to men.
The Vatican said Tuesday Francis "after intense prayer and mature reflection" decided to set up the commission, with 12 members including priests, nuns and laywomen.
It noted in May he told superiors of nuns' orders he intended to "set up an official commission to study the question" of the diaconate for women "above all regarding the early times of the church." Some historians say there were female deacons in the early church.
Married men who serve as deacons can preach and preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals, but only priests can celebrate Mass.