Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Pope opens the door for women to preside over Vatican ministries

After more than eight years of work, Pope Francis has finally promulgated this Saturday his new Apostolic Constitution, Praedicate Evangelium, the fundamental norm that includes many of the changes in the Roman Curia that it has already been implementing and that has the objective of making the cumbersome bureaucracy in the Government of the Holy See more efficient.

With it, Francis opens the door for laywomen to preside over dicasteries (Vatican ministries) by establishing that any baptized faithful can lead them if the Pope decides they are qualified for the position. Jorge Mario Bergoglio does not make any distinction between men and women in this section, something remarkable to give access to the laity to the Government of the church and at the same time open the way to women.

The most important Vatican departments are now headed by cardinals or high-ranking ecclesiastical officials except for one layman, the prefect of the Communications secretariat, Paolo Ruffini, elected in 2018. The Pontiff had already put this openness into practice by appointing women for positions normally reserved for bishops, but not as important as the dicasteries. The latest example was that of the general secretariat of the Vatican City State Governorate, number two of this organization, which fell in November to the Franciscan nun Raffaella Petrini.

“I have no problem appointing a woman at the head of a dicastery if the dicastery does not have jurisdiction,” the Jesuit pope said in a 2018 interview, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in the Vatican. Church government requires a bishop for the job, such as that of the congregation for the Clergy. But in other positions, such as Economy, “I would have no problem choosing a competent woman.”

The Pope opens the door for women to preside over Vatican ministries

In the same interview with Reuters, Francisco acknowledged having had to “fight” to appoint a woman as deputy director of the press office – the Spanish journalist Paloma García Ovejero – and said that at a certain point he offered the job of head of the Secretariat of Communication to a woman, but she turned him down because of other commitments.

Francisco, who was elected pope in 2013 among other things to put an end to the structural problems of the Curia, thus replaces the constitution Shepherd Bonus of John Paul II in 1988. The purpose of the reform is to decentralize the body and put an end to double powers so that the heavy machinery of the Vatican is more agile in its mission of governing the 1,300 million Catholics in the world.

Much of it has come into effect in recent years, but the publication of the document finally ends the process and sets it in motion as of June 5. From then on, the heads of the Vatican departments will have to meet regularly with the Pope as a group, and not just separately as up to now. Ultimately, Francis wants them to function more like a government cabinet that meets periodically with the head of state.

The norm emphasizes the missionary function of the Church with the creation of the dicastery for Evangelization, of such importance that it will be presided over by the Pontiff himself. The department absorbs the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and will be divided into two sections, one dedicated to the fundamental questions of evangelization in the world and the other to the new churches, a novelty.

Another of the most important points is the creation of the dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service, established in 2016, encompassing the powers of other departments. Also, the new dicastery for Charity, which until now was the Apostolic Limonery, and which will continue to be chaired by Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, was recently in Ukraine to help Caritas volunteers.

What’s more, Praedicate Evangelium collects the recent changes in the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Holy Office, divided into two sections to separate the doctrinal function from the disciplinary activity that will deal above all with the abuse of minors in the Church. Within the Doctrine of the Faith, the existing Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has been included, which “advises and advises the Pontiff” to fight against pederasty.

“For the first time, Pope Francis has made the protection of minors part of the structure of the central government of the Church: the Roman Curia,” said the US Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, part of the select group of cardinals. advisers to the Pope who have met with him in recent years to assist him in drafting this Constitution. The document, which will be part of Francis’s legacy, has been published unexpectedly on the ninth anniversary of the inauguration of his pontificate.


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