Women can be in charge of a parish

Catholic bishops are not making full use of Church law, says Cardinal Oswald Gracias.

Gracias is one the eight-member Council of Cardinals Pope Francis established in 2013 to help with governing the Catholic Church and reforming its central administration.

Women may perform most of the roles currently undertaken by men, he maintains.

Noting that while it’s true a woman  may not hear confession, say Mass or administer the sacrament of Confirmation, “she can do practically everything else,” Gracias says.

“Women can even be in charge of a parish according to Church law.”

Speaking at a press conference about last month’s Synod on the Amazon, Gracias said women’s role in the Church was a frequently raised theme in discussions about how the Church can better respond to the Amazon region’s pastoral needs.

Other representatives from the Amazon spoke of the need for concrete and tangible action.

They stopped short of addressing the question of women’s ordination to the diaconate. It is anticipated this will be addressed in some form in the Synod’s final document.

Bishop Ricardo Ernesto Centellas Guzmán of Bolivia is calling for a change in “mindset” when it comes to women in the Church.

“We all have to change our mentality to make sure participation of women becomes authentic and that it is equitable and fair,” he says.

At the moment, the role of women who are involved in decision-making power is “very low,” and in some places it is “almost invisible,” he says.

“Things must change by starting with the smaller things.”

Guzmán says work at parish level and in local communities is the place to start.

This includes pastoral councils that only give women consultation status, without any real decision making abilities.

Describing what he called a “walking Church,” Guzmán says such a church includes “walking together and deciding together”.

Otherwise “we will be limping together, not walking,” he says.

Sister Roselei Bertoldo from Brazil says the Church structure often focuses on men when it comes to questions of authority.

“We want to become the protagonist in this process,” she says.

“We will not keep silent. We want space, and we will start building a space.”


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