A French nun who could potentially be the first woman to cast a vote in the Synod of Bishops said that her appointment is evidence the “clericalist mindset is changing” as more and more women assume high-level decision-making responsibilities in the Catholic hierarchy.
Sister Nathalie Becquart told journalists that Pope Francis has been underlining the importance of including women in the decision-making processes, helping move the Church from a clericalist attitude towards a more synodal one.
“How can we somehow end with a clerical Church, where there have been abuses, of power and other kind of abuses,” she asked, during a conference transmitted live from Rome via Zoom. “By being like Christ, by being at the service of others and accompanying others.” The Synod of Bishops is a product of the Second Vatican Council, and since the late 1960s it has been meeting in Rome semi-regularly to discuss a wide array of topics. It serves as an advisory body to the pope, with no actual decision-making power.
No woman has ever voted in one of these meetings, though they have regularly taken part as observers, advisers, auditors and experts. Becquart, appointed by Pope Francis as undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, could become the first woman to cast a vote. Though there’s no written rule that says the undersecretary does vote, it has been the tradition thus far. Furthermore, Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech, told the Vatican’s in-house media that “a door has been opened” for her to vote in the upcoming synod, to be held in 2022, on the issue of synodality.
“We will then see what other steps could be taken in the future,” he said regarding the role of women in decision-making positions within the Church. But Becquart does not see her appointment as being about power, but rather, service: “Now that I have been appointed, the question is, how can I be of service? How can I use this authority for the service of the Church?”