Vatican Appoints First Woman in Senior Role as Secretariat of State
The new year rang with a progressive decision by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Pope Francis’s New Year’s Day homily urged listeners and followers to recognize women and the dignity they possess, along with ending violence directed against them. He referenced rape, pornography, and coerced abortions while also calling for women to take more initiative and have more involvement in civil society in regards to decision-making processes.
The Pope plans to transform the Roman Curia, which is expected to be published early this year. The draft for his plan, Praedicate Evagelium (Preach the Gospel), stated that the office of Vatican Secretary of State must be held by a cardinal; however, the reform also mentioned that it “should also involve lay women and men in governing roles of importance and responsibility” according to Crux. He also mentions how the participation of women is more important now than ever, especially due to the fact that contributions are made by citizens who live their faith through their family. His Holiness said, “women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes” reports Women’s Agenda.
Taking all he said into consideration, followers hope that the Pope will make a drastic, history-changing decision that will include a woman in some form of a position in the Vatican. On January 15th, Pope Francis announced that he will be appointing Francesca Di Giovanni, a female attorney who had worked for the Vatican for the past 27 years, as undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. Di Giovanni specializes in migration, refugees, intellectual property, and the status of women.
When asked about her hopes in her new position, Di Giovanni says, “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well”, according to the BBC. She also clarifies that “the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than the fact of being a woman” reports NPR.
Besides Di Giovanni, there are other women who hold prominent titles in the Vatican. These women are Barbara Jatta, who is the director of Vatican Museums, and Cristiane Murray, who is the deputy head of the Vatican press office.
This appointment comes as Pope Francis’s way of attempting to ease the ban on married men serving as priests. For many individuals, when one becomes a Catholic priest, it is understood and expected that he will devote himself to the Church rather than to a wife and family. Pope Francis sees this as an outdated mandate and intends to push for a “healthy decentralization” of the Church, according to NPR. However, while indeed progressive, these actions taken by the Pope have created a worry that the universal message could bring on confusion to faithful followers.