Exclusive: Pope gives women say on bishop appointments

  • The current committee to assist the Pope in choosing bishops is all male
  • New rules even allow lay Catholics to hold most offices in the Vatican
  • Pope has already appointed some women to high-ranking positions

VATICAN CITY, July 6 (Reuters) – Pope Francis said he wants to give women more top positions in the Holy See and announced that for the first time he would appoint women to a previously all-male Vatican committee to help him choose the world bishops.

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

A new constitution for the central administration of the Holy See, which went into effect last month, allows any baptized Catholic, including lay people and women, to head most Vatican departments. Continue reading

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“I’m open to giving (women) a chance,” he said in the part of the 90-minute interview dealing with the central government’s new constitution, known as the Curia.

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

“For the first time, two women are appointed to the committee for the election of bishops in the Congregation for Bishops,” he said.

The move, which has not been officially announced, is of great importance because, for the first time, women will have a say in appointing world bishops, all of whom are men.

“Things open up a little bit that way,” he said.

Pope Francis speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters at the Vatican July 2, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

NEW CONSTITUTION

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

Committee members, now made up of cardinals, bishops and priests, typically 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 will likely be the last minister to head that department.

When asked what other Vatican departments could possibly be headed by a lay person, Francis suggested they could include the Department of Catholic Education and Culture and the Apostolic Library. They are currently led by male clergy.

Francis has already appointed a number of women, both nuns and lay, to Vatican departments.

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

In addition, Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Missionary Sisters of Xaviere, as deputy undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, which prepares major gatherings of world bishops every few years.

Lay women already holding top positions at the Vatican include 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.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella; Edited by Alex Richardson

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