Pope Francis wants two women on committee proposing bishops


VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope Francis said he plans to appoint two women to the traditionally male-dominated Vatican committee in charge of clergy for the selection of bishops, in a July 2 interview with Reuters.

“I am open to giving (women) a chance,” Francis said, after being asked by the news agency about his plans to further promote the role of women in the Vatican. “Two women will be appointed for the first time to the committee responsible for choosing bishops for the Congregation for Bishops,” he said.

“In this way, things open up a bit,” added the pope.

In his new apostolic constitution, “Praedicate Evangelium,” the Latin phrase for Preaching the Gospel, Francis enshrined his vision for Vatican reform. The offices and departments that make up the Roman Curia can now be led by any faithful, provided they have the competence and whether or not they are ordained.

In the wide-ranging interview, Francis said he believed a layman could one day be in charge of the Vatican’s departments for education, culture and the Apostolic Library.

The pope has not announced the names of the women he intends to appoint to the committee of bishops, or given a timeline as to when they will step in.

Pope Francis meets with bishops at the archbishop’s residence in Lima, Peru, January 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Pool)

A nun is already on the staff of the Bishops’ Department, but the two women would serve on the committee that analyzes and then votes on recommendations for bishops sent by Vatican envoys around the world. The committee has historically only included bishops or cardinals, with the priests acting as consultors.

The final word on the appointment of bishops remains in the hands of the pope after receiving the committee’s proposal.

Pope Francis’ efforts to make the Vatican less male-dominated and less clerical have been overwhelmingly welcomed by Catholics around the world. Under his pontificate, there was an increase in the number of women in influential positions in the Vatican.

Sister Raffaella Petrini is currently the highest-ranking woman in the Vatican after Francis appointed her General Secretary of the Governorate of Vatican City State in 2021. Sister Nathalie Becquart is the synod’s first female undersecretary, who organizes the summit of Vatican bishops. to discuss the most pressing matters in the church. Sister Alessandra Smerilli is the secretary of the Department for Integral Human Development, which assists the pope in his efforts to promote migrants and the environment.

Emphasizing that you don’t need holy orders to have a leadership role in a Vatican department, Pope Francis has chosen Linda Ghisoni and Gabriella Gambino to be undersecretaries of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life . He also appointed German economist Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof as vice-coordinator of the Council for the Economy. And Barbara Jatta has been running the famous Vatican Museums since 2017.

Nuns wave as Pope Francis delivers his blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, June 7, 2020. On Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, Pope Francis called attention to an issue taboo that the Vatican has long ignored or downplayed: the abuse of power by mother superiors against nuns who, because of their vows of obedience, have no recourse but to obey.  (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Nuns greet Pope Francis delivering his blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, June 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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Pope Francis’ reform efforts at the Vatican have drawn criticism for going too far — or not far enough. Conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah, who once headed the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, expressed his skepticism of lay leaders in his book “For Eternity: Meditations on the Figure of the Priest.” .

“We sometimes hear it said that the exercise of authority must be separated from the ordained ministry. It is said here and there that government in the Church can be as much the work of men as of women, of laity as well as priests and bishops,” he writes. “Such statements are terribly ambiguous and destructive of the hierarchical structure of the Church, as Jesus Christ himself thought and intended.”

This is not the first time that Sarah rejects Francis’ proposals. As the pope considered allowing married priests or ordaining female deacons to administer remote areas of the Amazon rainforest in 2019, the cardinal penned an essay defending celibacy.

Others think the pope’s appointment of women to the Vatican is too little, too late. “Will these new appointees have any real power?” wondered Kathleen Cummings, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, in a press release published on Wednesday July 6. ultimately responsible?

“How much longer can we expect Catholic women to be grateful to be offered crumbs from the table?” she added.

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