I WOULD like to reply to a couple of points that Fr Kevin Ryan brought up in his article “Mary Magdalene is back in favour” (CL 28/8/05).
Firstly, he stated that she was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This is still a moot point! There are a number of traditions related to Mary Magdalene, although there are far fewer historical facts related to her life.
She was called Magdalene perhaps because she was from Magdala, near Tiberias, on the west shore of Galilee.
There is some question as to her identity, with debate centring on the presence of three possibly distinct women: Mary Magdalene, the unnamed “sinner” of Luke (7:36-50), and the sister of Martha and Lazarus in Luke (10:38-42) and John (11).
In the Eastern Church, these three persons were considered unique, different women, but in the Western Church, they were accepted often in common custom as one and the same woman – Mary Magdalene.
St Ambrose observed that it was better to leave this matter unresolved, and today it is a matter of general acceptance that her identity is uncertain in this area.
Also, in case some readers might be misled into thinking that the Church has, in the past, had women bishops, I would like to draw their attention to Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
The first paragraph of this letter reads: “Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches.”
While researchers might disagree with the above statement I prefer to believe the word of the late Holy Father.
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