Sister at Amazon synod calls for women religious to be granted vote

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One of the Catholic sisters taking part in the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops for the Amazon has called for women religious attending the gathering to be granted the right to vote, saying their status as non-voting participants has been a “strong topic” of discussion.

Medical Mission Sr. Birgit Weiler, one of 20 sisters participating in the synod, noted that while a lay brother was appointed to attend as a voting member, the sisters were not.

“Pope Francis already made it possible, saying it’s not necessary to receive ordination to priesthood to be able to vote when you have participated fully in the whole process of sharing faith, of discerning together,” said Weiler, a Peruvian theologian.

“We hope very much that something can happen there,” she said during an Oct. 11 press briefing. “There is no real reason why not, because when the brethren can vote, women religious are equal.”

The issue of women’s voting has emerged as an issue in the past three Synods of Bishops, as Francis each time appointed one or two lay brothers as a voting member, but appointed the sisters attending as non-voting auditors or experts.

According to the Catholic Church’s theology, brothers and sisters have analogous roles. They are each non ordained, professed members of religious orders.

Several groups have organized petitions and hosted demonstrations in Rome to call attention to the issue.

Weiler, who is part of the Peruvian bishops’ commission for social action, said the topic had come up in past days in the small working group she was assigned to participate in during the synod. Those groups are known by the Italian term circoliminori (“small circles”). “In our circle, it has been a topic and a strong topic and has been cited by several bishops,” she said.

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