Pope Francis prays that women be handed more leadership roles in the Church
VATICAN CITY, October 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― Pope Francis’ October prayer intention is for more roles of responsibility for lay people, especially women, in the institutions of the Catholic Church. His prayer comes at a time when some Church leaders, especially in the German Church, are advocating for the ordination of females to the diaconate and even the priesthood, a position incompatible with perennial Church teaching. Moreover, the Pope himself has been sending mixed signals on the matter.
In a video he recorded in Spanish, the Argentinian pontiff de-emphasized the importance of the clerical state for the Church. The video, titled “October: women in leadership roles in the church”, was released by Vatican News.
“No one has been baptized a priest or a bishop,” Pope Francis said.
“We have all been baptized as lay people. Lay people are protagonists of the Church,” he continued.
Pope Francis wants to see more roles for women within the Church, and more emphasize on their presence in the church because “women tend to be left beside,” he said.
“We must promote the integration of women, especially where important decisions are made,” the pontiff continued.
“We pray that by the virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church, without falling into forms of clericalism that diminish the lay charism.”
The video features a number of women smiling over the headline “More roles for women in leadership positions in the Church” or working in Vatican institutions. They include journalists, Vatican media representatives, and the director of the Vatican Museum, Barbara Jatta. None of the women depicted appear to be women in religious life, e.g. religious sisters or nuns; a more contemporary definition of “laity” excludes men and women in religious life from the category.
According to the Holy See’s own Vatican News, the video was made “in collaboration with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.”
“It highlights the role of the laity, whom Pope Francis considers true protagonists in the proclamation of the Gospel.”
Vatican News noted also that the pontiff has “made many gestures to give momentum to this desire to give women greater weight in the Church.” The online news source then quoted a passage from Pope Francis’ Evangelii gaudium: “Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded” (104).
Pope Francis’ concern for the advancement of women in Church institutions is shared by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who suggested in 2018 that this phenomenon would help fight sexual abuse committed by “closed clerical [male] circles” in the Church.” Marx suggested also that young women are alienated by the idea that all power in the Church lies in the hands of men.
“The impression that the Church – when it is about power – is finally a Church of men has to be overcome in the Universal Church and also here in the Vatican. Otherwise, young women will not find here no true creative options,” he said during the Youth Synod.
The issue of women’s leadership positions in the Church was also raised during the 2019 Synod on the Amazon. Delegates wanted some kind of special recognition for women’s leadership roles in the far-flung mission territories in the region. Some delegates, like the Austrian-born Bishop Emeritus Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil were in favour of women’s priestly ordination, and saw a women’s diaconate as a step towards it.
But the final document of the Amazon Synod did not go as far as explicitly advocating women’s ordination. Instead it stated that it “is urgent for the Amazon Church to promote and confer ministries for men and women in an equitable manner.” Quoting Pope Francis' 2013 exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the synod document called for the Church “to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” Quoting again from Pope Francis, the final document declared, “Let us not reduce the commitment of women in the Church, but promote their active participation in the ecclesial community.”
Francis has followed his words with actions: this August he appointed six women to the Holy See’s Council for the Economy. According to its statutes, the Council must have 8 bishops and 7 laypeople. Six of them are now women: Ruth Kelly, Leslie Ferrar, Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof, Marija Kolak, Maria Concepción Osácar Garaicoechea and Eva Castillo Sanz.