Vatican mum on whether women can vote in 2023 synod

Pope appointed woman to Synod

Vatican officials are not saying whether women can vote in the 2023 synod of bishops on concrete proposals about the future of the Catholic Church.

By 2023 the two-year synodal path process Pope Francis will formally open next month will be complete.

For years, women, including nuns, have pressed to be able to vote at Synod of Bishops meetings. These synods bring together the Catholic hierarchy to Rome to discuss pressing issues facing the 1.3-billion strong church.

Francis has sought to change the synods. He aims for them to be more inclusive, participatory and reflect on the real-world issues facing ordinary Catholics.

So far, however, women haven’t been able to vote at the synods. Even the religious superiors who participate as representatives of the world’s 641,000 nuns have been denied voting rights.

The upcoming synod process will focus specifically on “synodality” or the decentralized nature of the church and the role of the Catholic laity in it.

It is programmed to start with a papal Mass in St. Peter’s and ends in October 2023 with the bishops voting on a final document.

During the process, the Vatican envisions Catholics will participate at the diocesan level. Their views will be sent up through national bishops conferences so they can hear what Catholics across the board want from their church in the third millennium.

While women in general won’t be voting at the 2023 synod, according to current rules, their could be one exception.

Sister Natalie Becquart’s appointment earlier this year as an undersecretary in the Vatican’s synod office had signaled that she at least will probably be able to cast a vote, since her male predecessors had that right by nature of their office.

Her boss, Cardinal Mario Grech, has refused to say whether other women can vote in the 2023 synod – even if they’ve been invited to attend.

Instead, Grech stressed that women could and should participate in the diocesan levels of consultation and that the aim was consensus.

“This attention to the vote doesn’t leave me serene,” he told reporters. “It’s not the vote that counts.”

Becquart didn’t refer to the vote when asked what her hopes were for the process. She just said women “are part of the People of God.”

“What is very important is that they could be listened to, and protagonists of this synodal process from the beginning,” she said. “It’s an important point that this synod could involve and listen to women.”

Women have long complained that they have a second-class status in the Catholic Church, despite doing the lion’s share of its work.

This work includes teaching in Catholic schools, running Catholic hospitals and passing the faith onto future generations.

Francis has appointed a handful of women, including Becquart, to high-ranking Vatican positions and has called for women to have a greater decision-making role in church governance. He has, however, upheld church doctrine barring women from the priesthood.

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