Pope Francis will give women a voice in appointing bishops

Vatican City –

Pope Francis said he wants to give women more high-level positions in the Holy See, revealing that for the first time he would appoint women to a previously all-male Vatican committee that helps him select the world’s bishops. .

The role of women in the Vatican hierarchy was one of many ecclesiastical and international issues the 85-year-old pontiff discussed in an exclusive interview with Reuters at his Vatican residence on July 2.

A new constitution for the central administration of the Holy See that took effect last month allows any baptized Catholic, including lay men and women, to run most Vatican departments.

“I am open to giving (women) a chance,” he said in the part of the 90-minute interview that discussed the new constitution for the central administration, known as the Curia.

He mentioned that last year, for the first time, he appointed a woman to the number two post in the Vatican City governorate, making Sister Raffaella Petrini the highest-ranking woman in the world’s smallest state.

“Two women will be appointed for the first time to the committee to elect bishops in the Congregation for Bishops,” he said.

The measure, which has not been officially announced, is very significant because for the first time women will have a voice in the appointment of the world’s bishops, who are all men.

“In this way, things are opening up a little bit,” he said.


Francis did not name the women or say when their appointments would be officially announced.

Members of the committee, which is now made up of cardinals, bishops and priests, usually meet twice a month in Rome.

Last month, Irish-American Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, joked that with the promulgation of the new constitution, he would probably be the last cleric to head that department.

When asked what other Vatican department could be headed by a lay man or woman, Francis suggested they could include the department of Catholic Education and Culture and the Apostolic Library. They are currently headed by male clerics.

Francis has already appointed several women, both nuns and laywomen, to Vatican departments.

Last year, he appointed Italian nun Sister Alessandra Smerilli to the number two post in the Vatican’s development office, which deals with justice and peace issues.

In addition, Francis named Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters, as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, which prepares the world’s major gatherings of bishops held every few years.

Among the lay women already holding senior positions in the Vatican are Barbara Jatta, the first female director of the Vatican Museums, and Cristiane Murray, deputy director of the Vatican Press Office. Both were appointed by Francis.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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