“Strong sign”

Nathalie Becquart © Stefano dal Pozzolo/Romano Siciliani (KNA)

French religious Nathalie Becquart sees her appointment as the first woman with voting rights in the Roman Synod of Bishops as a "strong sign". This is part of and a consequence of a longer development in the Catholic Church, he said.

She told reporters in Rome on Wednesday. The Pope had appointed the 51-year-old on Saturday together with the Spanish religious Luis Marin de San Martin (59) as new undersecretaries in the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. As such, both receive voting rights in synod's plenary sessions.

Long demanded by some bishops

Such voting rights for women have been called for years by some bishops and others. At the local and national level, women have long been involved in church decision-making processes, Becquart said. She referred to communities in Latin America as well as initiatives in France. For many years, she headed the Bishops' Conference Commission for Youth and Vocational Pastoral Care there.

According to Becquart, the fact that Francis appointed Paolo Ruffini, for the first time a non-priest, as prefect of a Vatican authority, the Dicastery for Communications, "shows a line by which the participation and responsibility of women in the leadership of the Church can be expanded.". But the important thing is to take this forward in a synodal way: by listening to each other even more and combining creative ideas with the church's long tradition.

Networking synodal processes in the world church

At the Vatican, the new undersecretary also wants to help network synodal processes in the universal Church. As examples, she cited Germany, Australia, Italy or the Latin American bishops' assembly CELAM. "Part of being synodal is using the cultural richness of the church," Becquart touted. It was not enough, he said, for bishops and advisers to meet only "every few years in Rome".

At the same time, the religious warned against looking only at voting rights at synod assemblies. Already at the Youth and Amazon synods, he said, "synod mothers" had collaborated. "After all, a synod does not live only on the right to vote, Becquart said. Each expert or auditor, she said, helped gather ideas and build consensus – and thus helped determine each synod's outcome.

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