Giving women synod vote ‘should open Asian churches’

women synod vote

Lay people, especially women, will benefit from the Pope’s decision to expand those allowed to vote in the Synod on Synodality’s concluding discussions to include women, say leading Asian theologians.

They agree the decision will compel Asia’s national churches to widen male and female lay Catholics’ participation in Church activities.

The ruling means “the universal Church, as well as local churches, must open their doors to welcome the greater and active participation of women in making crucial decisions about the Church’s activities,” says a Vietnamese theologian.

Theologians across Asia agree.

They allude to how national churches have been excluding lay people, particularly women, from various church bodies: these include those that make decisions on their budgeting, ministry programmes, volunteer labour and internal operations.

Men, mostly clerics, continue to lead the work.

“The Church must return to its nature, that is to make sure there is no discrimination against women – as Jesus allowed some women to take part in the activities of the apostles,” he says.

Women’s participation varies across Asia

In the Philippines, women lay leaders are common.

At the national and continental levels of the synod, religious and lay people – men and women – fully participated as delegates.

In Sri Lanka, while some women are lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, some parish priests do not allow women to read the parish notices and announcements, a priest says.

“If women can vote in the Synod of Bishops, it is very important they are given positions, especially in Church media and parish councils,” he adds.

Some priests claim “lay people need to be paid when they are involved in Church activities and ministries. But nothing needs to be paid to invite women to Maundy Thursday foot-washing rituals. But there are priests who are not interested in that too.”

Cut patriarchal cultural barriers

In Pakistan, a leading theologian sees the Pope’s decision as an “effort to revisit the teachings of the Second Vatican Council – giving it a pastoral and prophetic reinterpretation.

The Church in Muslim-dominated Pakistan has been “a bit against this vision” of equality, he says – but now the Pope asks us to “work for the teachings of the Gospel that holds women as a complete persons with equal rights as a believer.

The first woman president of the Indian Theological Association says Francis has been consistently taking steps towards the full participation of women in the Church.

Francis wants the Church to function in a “Synodal way – a journeying of all members together.

Therefore, it is most appropriate to include lay people including women to be participants with voting rights in the third phase of the synod which is the universal phase.”

Matristics as important as Patristics

“Arguably India has the largest number of women religious in the world,” an Indian theologian says.

In the Indian context, “the papal decision must impel us to take initiatives to audit women’s role in the shaping of the Church,” he says.

Women should be listened to in the synodal discussions.

An Indonesian lay theologian notes women played “great and important roles” in the early Church. But the “superpower of the so-called patriarchy eliminated” women roles.

“We have only the theological discipline of Patristics or Patrology – the theological study of early Church fathers.

But the Church also needs to study the Matristics – the early Church mothers, he says.

Hope for a better Church

In Myanmar, Bangladesh and Korea, theologians are delighted with the change.

They agree “local Churches should seek ways to implement this mechanism of synodality, where all the people of God join together.”


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News category: Palmerston, World.

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