Pope promises women will soon help select bishops

select bishops

Women will be given more top-level positions in the Holy See and will be allowed to help select bishops, Pope Francis has announced.

The role of women in the Vatican hierarchy was one of the many Church and international topics the 85-year-old pontiff discussed in an interview last Saturday.

A new constitution for the Holy See’s central administration that came into effect last month allows any baptised Catholic, including lay men and women, to head most Vatican departments.

“For the first time, two women will be named to the Congregation of Bishops’ commission that chooses bishops,” Francis said.

“In this way, things are opening up a bit.”

Francis did not specify who would be appointed to what is now called the Dicastery for Bishops or when these appointments would take place.

Until a few months ago, the idea of women being allowed to select bishops was unimaginable in the eyes of several senior Vatican officials.

Members of the committee, which is now made up cardinals, bishops and priests, usually meet twice a month in Rome.

They vet candidates to govern for roughly half of the world’s dioceses, those in countries with a longstanding Christian presence.

The Dicastery for Evangelisation is responsible for dealing with bishops’ appointments in places considered mission territory.

Both dicasteries generally examine the top three candidates the apostolic nuncio puts forth to lead a particular diocese. The members of each dicastery decide on one of them and the name is submitted to the pope for his consideration.

Last year, for the first time, Francis named a woman to the number two position in the governorship of Vatican City, making Sister Raffaella Petrini the highest-ranking woman in the city state.

Men or women could head Vatican departments like the department for Catholic Education and Culture and the Apostolic Library. They are currently headed by male clerics.

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

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

Lay women already holding top jobs in the Vatican include the first female director of the Vatican Museums and the deputy director of the Vatican Press Office. Both were appointed by Francis.


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