Pope Francis has appointed the first women consultors to the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, which under his pontificate has become a crucial vehicle for setting the Church's pastoral agenda. Source: The Tablet.
Four women – three of whom are religious sisters – will be tasked with offering advice and strategic direction to the body which organises the Synod of Bishops gatherings.
The new consulters to the Synod's General Secretariat include: Sr Nathalie Becquart, the former director of youth evangelisation and vocations for the French bishops conference, Sr Alessandra Smerilli, an economics lecturer at the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences, Sr Maria Luisa Berzosa, an Spanish educational institute directory, and Professor Cecilia Costa, a sociology lecturer at Roma Tre University.
The Synod office confirmed that they are the first female appointees to the secretariat's all-male board of priests and a bishop. Two priests, Fr Giacomo Costa and Fr Rossano Sala, were also named to the Synod body as consulters on May 24. The priests had served as special secretaries to last October’s youth Synod while the four women had also attended that gathering.
One of the new consulters, Sr Nathalie, told The Tablet that the appointments reflected the Pope’s desire for greater female representation at senior levels in the Church.
“He is asking for more women in leadership positions,” she said. “I think Pope Francis, and many people [in Rome] are aware that things have to change.”
She said that the importance of a voice for women in the Church came through powerfully during the last Synod assembly and that changes were already underway with the Synod for the Pan-Amazon region on October 6 to 27. Women, religious and lay people, Sr Natalie said, were already involved in the preparatory committees for the gathering, and the role of women is in the preparatory document.
The Synod of Bishops has come under pressure to allow women to vote during its proceedings. As the rules stand, women can only attend the assemblies as advisers or observers.
Pope appoints four women to top Synod jobs (The Tablet)