Vatican’s first female-only association gets the nod

The Vatican’s first female-only association has been formally approved as a Vatican association.

Donne in Vaticano (“Women in the Vatican”) is open to all 750 women working for the Holy See and its attached institutions. So far about 50 women have joined.

Women make up about a fifth of the Vatican workforce.

Most of them work in roles like answering the telephone and mending priests’ vestments. The majority are nuns though other employees are professional lay staff.

The association says it offers members opportunities for collaboration, sharing and outreach.

“Women make up half of our Church and our contribution in all areas of its life is important,” the group’s president Tracey McClure said. McClure is a senior journalist at Vatican Radio.

“As Pope Francis says, ‘The Church cannot be herself without the woman and her role,’ and D.VA just makes us a little more visible.

The project to establish the association began about four years ago.

Organisers, led by McClure, say the obstacles they needed to overcome included “normal bureaucracy_… like agreeing on statutes for the association, of which 35 drafts were made before one was adopted”.

Other concerns that needed to be sorted out included fear the group would become a subversive association or a trade union. Both men and women were concerned about this.

Nor is it about female ordination or other “controversial or ideological matters”, said Gudrun Sailer, a Vatican Radio employee.

She said it’s important to acknowledge the support in getting the association approved was not from women but from the “hierarchy … the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

“They were very receptive.

“You always need to have the adequate person in place for a project like this, and I’m convinced that it’s only fair that this recognition comes during the pontificate of Pope Francis, who’s done so much to promote the female presence.”

She also acknowledged Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s support for women and St Pope John Paul who “wrote beautiful things about women, making us more visible in the pontifical magisterium.”


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