Pope shuns tradition to appoint first woman to senior Synod post

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In what’s been called a “mini revolution” for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has named the first woman to the high-ranking post of under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

French nun Nathalie Becquart, appointed Saturday, is already familiar with the Synod of Bishops – the Vatican body that brings together bishops to discuss major debates in the Church – having been a consultant there since 2019.

Now, for the first time in the Church’s history, a woman will be able to vote on the texts that are debated at the synods.

Until now any women who were invited were restricted in how they could express themselves, says RFI Vatican journalist Éric Senanque, adding the situation had been generating increasing internal criticism.

Women 'invisible'

Italian historian and feminist Lucetta Scaraffia, who was invited to the 2015 synod on the theme of the “family”, wrote a scathing account in the daily Le Monde saying that it was regrettable to find women there were "almost invisible".

By breaking with tradition to appoint Becquart, Pope Francis is sending a strong message that the Curia must make more room for women.

"With the appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart and the opportunity she has to vote, a door has been opened," said Secretary General of the Synod, Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech, in an interview with Vatican media.

Shortly after her appointment was announced, Becquart said the move was "a sign of confidence for women in the Church” that Pope Francis was sincere in his desire to involve women in decision-making within the ecclesial hierarchy.

The 52-year-old Becquart, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, studied at the prestigious HEC business school in Paris. She also studied philosophy at the Sorbonne.