Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed three women to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops, continuing his policy of opening up top Church jobs to women. It is the first time that women have been allowed to serve in such a capacity.
They are: Sister Raffaella Petrini, FSE, secretary general of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State; Sister Yvonne Reungoat, FMA, past general superior of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters); and Maria Lia Zervino, a lay person who is president of the World Union of Catholic Female Organizations.
The Dicastery for Bishops helps the pope choose new bishops (who must be male) to lead dioceses around the globe, and until now, the committee has only been made up of men.
One of the new members, Sister Raffaella Petrini, already holds one of the highest positions of governorship in the Holy See after Francis last year named her the Vatican City State’s secretary general, the second-highest position of governorship in the Vatican.
Francis has consistently promoted an attempt to usher in more gender equality within the Church’s positions of government and responsibility. The pontiff has repeatedly said that women should play greater roles in the Vatican’s hierarchy. He has broken centuries of precedent by placing women in some key spots previously held only by men.
It was only last year that he issued a decree to allow women to serve as readers at liturgies, altar servers and distributors of communion. Nevertheless, he stopped short of saying that one day the door might open that might lead to the ordainment of female priests.