A senior missionary sister participating in the Amazon Synod in the Vatican is calling for a new Synod specifically to discuss the role of women in the Church.

Driving the news

Sister Birgit Weiler is a Medical Mission Sister in the Amazon in Peru who is participating in the Synod this month in Rome as an auditor and also as a member of one of the meeting’s small working groups.

She told The Tablet that the Church has need of “greater discussion about women in roles of leadership”, and said a specific Synod should be called to that end.

“The Church needs to make the conscious step and to make it possible for women to be in positions of leadership where they have the gifts, the skills, the knowledge, and not simply prefer men over women”, Weiler said.


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Weiler said a good starting point would be the establishment of ministries for women in the Amazon that recognise their pastoral contribution to the Church there, and to strengthen their commitment and faith.

The sister noted that the shortage of priests in the region means it too often falls to women to provide basic services such as catechesis and evangelisation.

She also observed that “it is the women that find it easier to connect to other women of other communities that are not Christian and remain firm in their own beliefs, finding common values that bring them together”.

In the end, Weiler said, it is a matter of the Church extending to women the “dignity” they deserve, in the same way that it recognises the dignity of ordained male leaders.

“Because of this we ask that ministries are set up that recognise what these women are doing, that the Church recognise their work, and to not merely state that women are serving”, the sister explained.

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Why it matters

In their interim reports last week, nine of the twelve small working groups at the Amazon Synod mentioned the need to recognise in some way the ministry of Catholic women in the Amazon.

That positive feedback has meant a proposal on ordaining women to the diaconate has made it in to the Synod final document, which bishops will vote on this coming Saturday.

Weiler said in terms of the equal participation of men and women in the small discussion groups “we treat and see each other equally, as brothers and sisters”.

But she added that any new ministries for women must be accompanied by votes for women at Bishops’ Synods, something which is presently vetoed.

“Our differences are not to be understood in a hierarchical way, but we should ask ourselves how we can truly be one by recognising our differences”, Weiler emphasised.

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For the record

Weiler also referred in her interview with The Tablet to the incident Monday in which unknown individuals stole statues of Our Lady of the Amazon from a Roman Church and threw them into the Tiber River.

“I find it shocking and painful that somebody cannot just accept something which is different”, the sister lamented.

She added that the theft and desecration goes against the entire message of the Synod, which is openness to the Spirit.

“Openness means trying to understand the other: what does a symbol, a picture, a sign mean to the other, and not to behave with prejudices”, Weiler explained.

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