Pope rules baptised lay Catholics, including women, can lead Vatican departments

Italian lay woman Francesca Di Giovanni, who was named by Pope Francis as the first woman to hold a high-ranking post in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, is pictured at the Vatican, December 23, 2013

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Pope Francis introduced a landmark reform on Saturday that will allow any baptised lay Catholic, including women, to head most Vatican departments under a new constitution for the Holy See’s central administration.

For centuries, the departments have been headed by male clerics, usually cardinals or bishops, but that could change from June 5 when the new charter takes effect after more than nine years of work.

The 54-page constitution, called Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel), was released on the ninth anniversary of Francis’ installation as pope in 2013, and replaces one issued in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

Its preamble says the “pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelisers in the Church”, adding that lay men and women “should have roles of government and responsibility” in the central administration, known as the Curia.

The principles section of the constitution says “any member of the faithful can head a dicastery (Curia department) or organism” if the pope decides they are qualified and appoints them.

Under the 1988 constitution, the departments – with a few exceptions – were to be headed by a cardinal or bishop and assisted by a secretary, experts and administrators.

The new constitution makes no distinction between lay men and lay women, though experts said at least two departments – the department for bishops and the department for clergy – will remain headed by men because only men can be priests in the Catholic Church.

The department for consecrated life, which is responsible for religious orders, could conceivably be headed by a nun in the future, the experts said. It is now led by a cardinal.

In an interview with Reuters in 2018, the pope said he had short-listed a woman to head a Vatican economic department, but she could not take the job for personal reasons.

ROLE OF LAITY ‘ESSENTIAL’

The new constitution said the role of lay Catholics in governing roles in the Curia was “essential” because of their familiarity with family life and “social reality”.

Francis also merged some offices, created a new one to oversee charity efforts, and set up a new order of importance.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which includes lay people and abuse victims, appears to have been given more institutional influence by being incorporated into the doctrinal department, which decides on sanctions for priests convicted of sexual abuse.

But one of the commission’s original members, Marie Collins of Ireland, said on Twitter this could hurt its independence.

While the Secretariat of State kept its premier position as administrative, coordinating and diplomatic department, the centuries-old high status of the doctrinal office was placed below that of the department of evangelisation.

The pope will head the evangelisation office himself, highlighting the importance he gives to spreading and reviving the faith.

Francis has already named a number of lay people, among them women, to Vatican departments.

Last year, he for the first time 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.

Also last year, he named Italian nun Sister Alessandra Smerilli to the interim position of secretary of the Vatican’s development office, which deals with justice and peace issues.

In addition, Francis has named Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters, as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, which prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years.

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The Nun Reshaping the Role of Women Inside the Vatican

Sister Nathalie Becquart will play a prominent role at the Synod of Bishops next year as Pope Francis tries to encourage new voices in the hierarchy.

Sister Nathalie Becquart will serve as under secretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops next year in Rome.

By Celestine Bohlen

Sister Nathalie Becquart, 53, a French Roman Catholic nun, was named to serve as under secretary of the Synod of Bishops, a summit of 250 bishops from around the world that will meet in Rome in 2023. She will become the first woman with a right to vote at such a high-level Vatican gathering.

What is the significance of your appointment?

We can read this as a call by Pope Francis to have a woman be there — not just as a woman, but as a lay person. I am a lay woman, since as religious (a church term for members of religious orders), we are not clerics. He really believes that the Holy Spirit speaks not only through the hierarchy, but also through all baptized people.

At the beginning of the church, there was this idea that the church was first of all a community. Then, for many historical reasons, the church put the focus on the institutional hierarchy. And now we rediscover that the main focus of the church is people walking together: Everyone has a role. Nobody should be set aside. We are together, the church, the people of God, all of us — bishops, men, women, lay people, religious, married, single, children — baptized. So we all have to be protagonists of the mission of the church.

What kind of issues will you be voting on at the synod?

That’s difficult to say. The Synod of Bishops is a process, one that was founded at the end of Vatican II as a way to continue the experience of the pope meeting with all the bishops, an advisory body for the pope. Now, it is a listening process that has already started in dioceses all over the world. This synod — which follows synods on youth (2018) and on the Amazon region (2019) — is about what kind of church we want to be, how we can best serve the world.

So far we are at the listening stage, the first time in the history of the church that we have such a broad-based listening process.

How has Pope Francis given women a greater voice in the Church? What difference has it made?

Pope Francis has been trying to fill the gap that has sometimes been put between leaders and faithful — those who know or who teach, on one side, and the rest.

Women are a part of the church. Which is why it is so important that they have a voice, that they participate. There was a major change a year ago when Pope Francis opened up the possibility for women to have a specific role (in church services) as lectors and acolytes; before, that was only for men.

What are the obstacles to women being ordained priests in the Catholic Church?

The vision of Pope Francis, through this synod, is to get rid of a clerical church and move to a synodal church — to disconnect participation in the leadership of the church from ordination. We can say that the way now opening up is to listen to all different views; for instance, not everyone thinks ordination of women is a good path. You have some groups calling for that, but you also have some groups calling for new ministries.

The question of women is a sign of the times. It is a powerful call within our societies and in the church. The church has already said we should fight against any discrimination against women. But it is a long way, not only in the church.

What have been your experiences as a woman in what were once all-male gatherings?

I was the first woman to be director of the national office of youth and vocation at the French Catholic Bishops Conference; before it was always a priest. At a gathering in Lourdes, I remember a very old bishop asked me, “So whose secretary are you?” I said, “No, not a secretary, I am a director of a national office.” He was a little bit surprised because someone from his generation — they were usually trained in minor seminaries since the age of 12 — didn’t have a lot of experience with women.

The younger generation is different; many have had professional experiences. I work with young priests, and for many of them, working in team with women who may be their boss, it is no longer a question.

You have degrees in business management, philosophy, sociology and theology; you have worked as a volunteer in Lebanon; studied in Boston and Chicago; and worked as a consultant at a marketing agency for nongovernmental and religious organizations. What parts of that experience led you to this critical — maybe history-making — role at the heart of the Catholic Church?

When I was young, I was a girl scout and later a scout leader. It was kind of a school of leadership.

As a student at HEC Paris (the prestigious business school), I specialized in entrepreneurship, how to take risks, to organize a business plan. I learned a lot about how to work as a team, about project management, how to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship, how to take risks.

I became a nun in 1995, at age 26, so there is also my experience in religious life. I would highlight my spiritual path of transformation, of conversion, of living in a community. Throughout life, you face difficulties, crises, storms. But if you are really rooted in faith, and sure that Christ is with you, the main message of the Gospels and the church is that darkness is not the end. There is always this message of hope and resurrection. This has helped me, even through difficult times.

You are also a great sailor.

I am a skipper! And yes, sailing has been a great school of life and leadership. When you are a skipper, you have to listen to your crew. For many years, I received the gift to sail and lead retreats for young adults. It was a way to put together my experience sailing and my call for a ministry to help young people. Truly, the sea is my place.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope decries genital mutilation, sex trafficking of women

Pope Francis is decrying the genital mutilation of millions of girls and the trafficking of women for sex, including openly on city streets

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus noon prayer from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022.

Pope Francis on Sunday decried the genital mutilation of millions of girls and the trafficking of women for sex, including openly on city streets, so others can make money off of them.

“This practice, unfortunately widespread in various regions of the world, humiliates the dignity of women and gravely attacks their physical integrity,” Francis said.

Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve changing or injuring female genitalia for non-medical reasons and violates the human rights, health and the integrity of girls and women, the United Nations says in championing an end to the practice.

The practice can cause severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as consequences for sexual and reproductive health. While mainly concentrated in some 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, it is also a problem for girls and women living elsewhere, including among immigrant populations.

According to U.N. figures, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone the practice.

The pope also told the faithful that on Tuesday, there will be a day of prayer and reflection worldwide against human trafficking.

“This is a deep wound, inflicted by the shameful search of economic interests, without respect for the human person,” Francis said. ”So many girls — we see them on the streets — who aren’t free, they are slaves of the traffickers, who send them to work, and, if they don’t bring back money, they beat them,” the pope said. “This is happening today in our cities.”

“In the face of these plagues on humanity, I express my sorrow and I exhort all those who have responsibility to act in a decisive way to impede both the exploitation and the humiliating practices that afflict in particular women and girls,” Francis said.

Complete Article HERE!

Support your children if they are gay, pope tells parents

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Pope Francis said on Wednesday that parents of gay children should not condemn them but offer them support.

He spoke in unscripted comments at his weekly audience in reference to difficulties that parents can face in raising offspring.

Those issues included “parents who see different sexual orientations in their children and how to handle this, how to accompany their children, and not hide behind an attitude of condemnation,” Francis said.

He has previously said that gays have a right to be accepted by their families as children and siblings.

He has also said that while the Church cannot accept same-sex marriage it can support civil union laws aimed at giving gay partners joint rights in areas of pensions and health care and inheritance issues.

Last year, the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a document saying that Catholic priests cannot bless same-sex unions, a ruling that greatly disappointed gay Catholics.

In some countries, such as the United States and Germany, parishes and ministers had begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to de facto institutionalise these.

Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Church have said the pope – who has sent notes of appreciation to priests and nuns who minister to gay Catholics – is giving mixed signals on homosexuality, confusing some of the faithful.

Last month, a Vatican department apologised for “causing pain to the entire LGBTQ community” by removing from its website a link to resource material from a Catholic gay rights advocacy group in preparation for a Vatican meeting in 2023 on the Church’s future direction. read more

The Church teaches that gays should be treated with respect and that, while same-sex acts are sinful, same-sex tendencies are not.

Vatican website gives space to group demanding female priesthood

Father Roy Bougeois from Georgia (2nd R) poses with a group of Roman Catholic activist in front of the Vatican October 17, 2011.

By Philip Pullella

The Vatican has given space on its website to a Catholic group that demands the ordination of women priests during consultations ahead of a key meeting next year.

While the Church remains opposed to women priests, the inclusion of resource material from the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) is part of an opening up of debate on a range of issues that has pleased liberals but angered traditionalists.

It follows the publication last month of material from a Catholic gay rights advocacy group on the same part of the website dedicated to the meeting, which is known as a synod.

That publication was criticised by Catholic conservatives who have accused Pope Francis and the Vatican of sending mixed signals on traditional teachings.

“The courageous dialogue called for by the synodal process must include open conversation about women’s ordination,” WOC said in a Tweet welcoming the inclusion of its material on the synod website.

The U.S-based organisation’s package of background material is called “Let Her Voice Carry – a Synod Toolkit for Ordination Justice Advocates”.

The group calls itself the “uncompromising feminist voice for women’s ordination and gender equity in the Roman Catholic Church” and its leaders assist at the ordinations of female priests, which Church leaders say are illegitimate and invalid.

The 2023 synod, called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” is already steeped in division.

Supporters see it as an opportunity to change the Church’s power dynamics and give a greater voice to lay Catholics, including women, and people on the margins of society.

Pope Francis has said he wants the long consultative phase to be broad and inclusive, but conservatives say the three-stage process of dialogue – local, national and international – may erode the hierarchical structure of the 1.3 billion member Church and, in the long run, dilute traditional doctrine.

The Catholic Church teaches that only men can be priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.

Supporters of a female priesthood say Jesus was merely conforming to the customs of his times and that women played a greater role in the early Church than is commonly recognized.

The pope has ruled out a female priesthood, saying the “door is closed” on the issue.

He has allowed women to have greater roles in a number of Vatican departments.

Complete Article HERE!