“The Church cannot do without the charisms and vocations of women. She must use this great treasure in order to be able to proclaim the Gospel”, a new lay female Vatican economic council member has said.

– Cooperation between clerics and laity, men and women “makes the Church fit for the future”

Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof told katholisch.de August 10 that her appointment last week to the Vatican Council for the Economy is “a clear sign” that the long-desired “cooperation between bishops, priests and laity and collaboration between men and women” is finally becoming a reality in the Church.

Last Thursday Pope Francis named thirteen new members – including six cardinals, six laywomen and a layman – to the Council, which oversees the administrative, financial and economic management of the different dicasteries of the Roman Curia as well as of the various institutions of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.

Kreuter-Kirchhof welcomed that new diversity in the make-up of the Council, and said that with the mix of ordained and lay members the body “is becoming a sign of togetherness that makes the Church fit for the future”.

“We are travelling together as a Church: men and women, clergy and laity. Together we are shaping the next steps of the Church”, Kreuter-Kirchhof said of her new job.

– New appointments a “clear” nod to more Vatican responsibility for laypeople

Kreuter-Kirchhof has been a professor of German and international public law at the Heinrich-Heine University Dusseldorf since 2016 and is also the chair of the Hildegardis Association, a movement of Catholic women in Germany that supports female students in need and promotes women in Church leadership.

That long-standing commitment to Catholic women on her part is what made the academic “particularly pleased” that six of the seven new lay appointees to the Vatican economic council are women.

Asked whether the new appointments also are a sign that male and female laypeople will play a stronger role in the Vatican in years to come, Kreuter-Kirchhof said “I would like that”, and added that the new names on the Council “make a clear structural decision in this direction”.

– More women’s leadership “in the interest of the Church”, “grounded in the gospel”

Kreuter-Kirchhof told katholisch.de that “a great deal is possible” in terms of the increase in the number of women in Church leadership positions that she has been working for in her tole in the Hildegardis Association.

The professor did not rule out the possibility that women might become in years to come papal ambassadors and prefects of dicasteries or even deacons and priests.

Despite the “controversial debates” the Church is currently engaged in over the place of women in the institution, Kreuter-Kirchof said she sees “encouraging signs” of women’s equality, particularly in German dioceses.

There women are “tak[ing] on central leadership tasks and mak[ing] a significant contribution to the future of our Church”, Kreuter-Kirchof recalled, a development she said is being “perceived by all sides as positive and very enriching”.

“Many priests welcome” women taking a more active role in the Catholic institution, Kreuter-Kirchof said, adding that more women in Catholic leadership “is in the interest of the Church and is grounded in the gospel”.

– Goal in new role “to make visible the special mission of the Church for the common good”

As a jurist and not an economist or financial expert Kreuter-Kirchof said her appointment to the Vatican economic council came as something of a “surprise”, but she explained that “the Hildegardis Association is well known in the Vatican with its mentoring program for women who take on leadership roles in the Catholic Church”, and that “could have played a role” in her new nod.

In any case, the law professor said her priority now in her new position is to bring to the Vatican and its finances her academic focus on sustainability, through which she has been researching how “to think together economic, ecological and social concerns in order to make our economy and social life sustainable”.

“We have to think about how we can use financial resources effectively for future generations and the preservation of creation”, Kreuter-Kirchof insisted.

She added that she sees the task of the Vatican economic council “to use the Vatican’s financial resources in the service of the Pope’s pastoral ministry and at the same time – this is important to me – to make visible the special mission of the Church for the common good”.

More articles on Novena on lay female leadership in the Church:

Francis has boosted by 70% the number of women in Vatican leadership roles

Pope names six laywomen experts to Vatican Council for the Economy, confirms Cardinal Marx as coordinator


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.