An Increasing Role for Women in the Church

There has been much happening at the Vatican lately. Indeed, it’s been rather a large “shakeup” by Pope Francis in the offices there. It is more than simply renaming offices from “congregations” and “pontifical councils” to “dicasteries,” but truly rethinking the roles and functions of these offices, along with increased roles for women in the Vatican.

The archdioceses and dioceses around the world are not at the service of the Vatican, but indeed, it is the other way around entirely. The Dicasteries of the Vatican are at the service of the local Church found throughout the world in archdioceses and dioceses, just like the chancery offices of a local diocese are really at the service of the local parishes, clergy, and parishioners.

Last month, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, decided to expand the membership of the Dicastery of Bishops to include, for the first time, women members — Sistyer Raffaella Petrini, F.S.E., Secretary General of the Governorate of the Vatican City State; Sister Yvonne Reungoat, F.M.A, former Superior General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; and Dr. Maria Lia Zervino, president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.

With the move, Pope Francis has given these three women a significant amount of authority within one of the Church’s most important offices.

This important step sets a precedent in developing leadership roles of women in the Church, showing that the gifts and charisms of the People of God, male and female, clerical, religious, and laity, are all essential in building up the body of Christ.

In addition, by the creation of dicasteries, women will now have an opportunity to head these offices for the Vatican one day in the future.

The Dicastery of Bishops studies and reviews the names and files of priests throughout the world whom Pope Francis might appoint to become bishops. This is true for both bishops and auxiliary bishops of dioceses.

In addition, the Dicastery of Bishops also studies the needs of particular dioceses and suggests that the Holy Father transfers bishops from one diocese to another.

The Dicastery is staffed by Cardinal Marc Ouellet in Rome, undersecretaries who are archbishops and bishops, as well as clerical and lay staff.

Members meet twice a month to review dossiers submitted by Vatican nuncios about potential candidates and to vote on the names they recommend to the pope.

Last week in Quebec, Canada, Pope Francis cited other women who have played large roles in the process of healing and reconciliation, saying that they “best understand how to protect the most important things in life.”

The women he praised were: Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint from the territories of what would become the United States and Canada.

The feminine genius so lauded by Pope Saint John Paul II is coming to fruition in the Vatican.

Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, may we continue to grow in appreciation of the gifts and talents of women.