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Pope Francis Will Select Women for Bishop Appointment Committee

Pope Francis's push for female leadership in the church has not been universally embraced

Pope Francis will appoint women to an all-male committee that oversees the selection of bishops.

For the first time, the cardinals, bishops, and priests that serve on the Dicastery for Bishops will be joined by two women.

The leader of the Catholic Church believes that “opening up a bit” will increase opportunities for women within the church’s universal government, the Holy See. The announcement comes one month after the Holy See adopted a new constitution that allows any baptized-Catholic, lay man or woman to lead a department of the Vatican.

In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis discussed the future appointments without naming any possible candidates. The pope has already placed several women in positions of leadership at the Vatican.

He mentioned that last year, for the first time, he named a woman to the number two position in the governorship of Vatican City, making Sister Raffaella Petrini the highest-ranking woman in the world’s smallest state,” the outlet noted.

Additionally, Sister Alessandra Smerilli was appointed to the second-highest position in the Vatican’s development office. Pope Francis selected Barbara Jatta as the first female director of the Vatican Museum in 2016 and Christine Murray to serve as the deputy director of the Vatican Press Office in 2019. Both are laities.

When asked whether other Vatican divisions might reasonably be led by a layperson, Francis mentioned the Apostolic Library and the Department for Catholic Education and Culture,” reports LiveMint. “At the moment, they are led by male clergy.”

Francis’ effort to advance female leadership has not been embraced ubiquitously by the Catholic Church.

A motion that would have had women “appropriately represented in decision-making structures of Church governance” and had “the experiences and perspectives of women are heard, considered and valued” failed during the Catholic Church’s fifth plenary council in Australia in early July. The motion was one of two submitted that would have advanced Australian women’s presence in the church that was suspended during the policy-making meeting.

If advanced, the motion would have allowed women to serve as deacons pending Vatican authorization.

“This is not the way we were anticipating or hoping the process would go,” Shane Mackinlay, the plenary council vice president, told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It is disappointing and a lot of people – women and men, priests and laypeople and bishops – were very distressed. It was clear our members were not ready to put this to one side and move on to other things.”

Pope Francis credited women for the growth and sustained presence of the Catholic Church in the modern world during a speech in February of 2020.

“In the Amazon region, there are communities that have long preserved and handed on the faith even though no priest has come their way, even for decades. This could happen because of the presence of strong and generous women who, undoubtedly called and prompted by the Holy Spirit, baptized, catechized, prayed and acted as missionaries,” the pope said. “For centuries, women have kept the Church alive in those places through their remarkable devotion and deep faith.”

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