The Pope Francis Appoints Women to The Advisory Group of Bishops for the First Time

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The Vatican announced on Wednesday that Pope Francis had appointed three women—two nuns and a laywoman—to a formerly all-male group that assists him in choosing the world’s bishops.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters earlier this month, Pope announced that he wished to give women more high and mighty posts in the Holy See.

The three women are Argentine laywoman Maria Lia Zervino, head of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, UMOFC, French nun Yvonne Reungoat, a former superior general of a religious order, and Italian sister Raffaella Petrini. She is presently the deputy governor of Vatican City.

The Dicastery for Bishops, which screens applicants and counsels the pope on which priests should become bishops, was founded by appointing 14 persons, including three women.

Cardinals, bishops, and priests made up the remaining 11 people appointed on Wednesday.

Five years is the length of terms. There were more than 20 members before the 14 names were revealed on Wednesday. As terms end, the total varies, although the committee typically has 25 to 30 members.

Locally, bishops begin the process by recommending priests to archbishops who they believe would become good bishops.

The Vatican nuncio, or envoy, in a nation, receives the list and carefully analyses each candidate before making recommendations to the Vatican.

About twice a month, the committee’s international members convene in Rome to discuss their suggestions, which are then forwarded to the pope for final approval.

When Francis revealed his choice to appoint women to the decision-making section of the bishop’s department in an interview with Reuters on July 2 at his home, he stated, “This way, things are opening up a little bit.”

Francis has already appointed several women, both nuns, and laywomen, to Vatican ministries, making Petrini the most influential woman in the world’s smallest state in her capacity as deputy governor.

He appointed Sister Alessandra Smerilli, an Italian nun who works on justice and peace problems, to the number two position in the Vatican’s development office last year.

Francis has also appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French Xaviere Missionary Sister, to co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, which organizes significant gatherings of global bishops every few years.

Barbara Jatta, the first female director of the Vatican Museums, and Cristiane Murray, the deputy director of the Vatican Press Office, are two examples of laywomen who already hold prominent positions at the Vatican. Francis appointed both of them.

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