A nun and consultant to the Vatican Synod of Bishops has said she is certain “change will come” in terms of more women in Church leadership.

Driving the news

“Changes will come with the new generation as more and more young people – not only young women but also young men – ask for women’s equality”, Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart told the CNS January 12.

There are also “more and more priests and bishops now that are speaking out for women”, the religious added.

“I have seen an evolution; at the beginning, the question of women in the Church was a question from women, and now it is also an important topic for many men, priests and bishops — and even the pope!”, she said.

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Becquart, an observer at the 2018 Vatican Synod on young people, was appointed by Pope Francis in May 2019 as a consultant to the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops – the office that coordinates the bishops’ gatherings in Rome – along with a man and four other women, the first of their gender to be appointed to such a position.

The French religious said she saw her appointment as “a symbolic and effective step toward appointing more women at the Curia”, and reflective of “Pope Francis’s desire to give more places to women at all levels of the Church”.

But Becquart warned true gender equality in the Church won’t come until there are “more women in leadership positions and decision-making processes”.

There are presently two laywomen serving as undersecretaries of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, and a female religious is undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

But Becquart said that more women in key Roman curial roles are necessary.

“Another symbolic step could be, for instance, that [the Pope] ask a woman to lead the spiritual retreat for the Curia one year”, the nun suggested.

Why it matters

Another influential Catholic woman who told CNS she was optimistic on more female leadership in the Church was US theologian Phyllis Zagano.

The Hofstra University expert said Pope Francis was sounding all the right notes with his pledge after the Amazon Synod to reopen the Vatican commission on the female diaconate in the early Church and with his powerful homily January 1 in which he said “every form of violence against women is a blasphemy against God”.

But Zagano said the problem with opening Church leadership up to women doesn’t rest so much with Francis as with the men around him in the Vatican.

“I think Pope Francis is quite serious about listening to women”, the theologian explained, adding: “his problem is that some in the Curia are not. He will do what he can”.

What’s next

On the subject of the possible reintroduction of the diaconate of women called for by the Amazon Synod, Zagano recalled that “ordained women deacons are historically documented, doctrinally permissible and pastorally necessary”.

The trouble, the expert said, is that many in the Church continue to hold to the outdated argument that the ordained minister images Christ, and since Christ was a man, women can’t be ordained ministers.

“Until that hard barrier, so ingrained so deeply in much of the Curia and Vatican staff, is overcome, there will be no advancement for women inside or outside the Church… and women will continue to be disrespected in large parts of the world”, Zagano warned.

The longer that barrier holds up, she added, the more it will affect the reputation for openness of the Pope.

Until Francis “has a woman standing next to him proclaiming the Gospel, nothing he says about women will be heard”, Zagano lamented.

For the record

In other news on women in the Church, the special number of Vatican magazine Donne Chiesa Mondo devoted to “Women and Francis” is now up and online in an English edition.

In that issue, Donne Chiesa Mondo – a supplement to official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano – explores what women think of Pope Francis in relation to the female question in the Church.

We at Novena thought we’d share the index with our readers:

The urgency to overcome a monochrome Church

Women’s ministries: post-Synod perspectives

Behind every Pope…

This, I would like to say to Pope Francis

“The challenge is to give women real space”

The Pontiff of maternal gestures

Francis as exception in the institutional Church

Do not be afraid

Rocío’s blouse is now a flag

Mary Magdalene feast for the Church

The revolution of being with Mother Earth

Women and History

Teresa and Francis

“Breaking the wall of inequality”

Next on Novena:

French women denounce exclusion as Eucharistic ministers: “It calls into question the equal dignity of the baptised”

German bishop says ‘synodal path’ reform process “only chance” for Church, adds women deacons “possible”

German bishop recognises women’s exclusion from ordination “fundamentally unjust and inappropriate”

Spanish Catholic women decry rise in Church misogyny due to “huge lack of female presence” in seminaries

Francis cries: “Every form of violence against women is a blasphemy against God”

Vatican paper implores Pope “to break wall of inequality between women and men in Church”

Osnabrück bishop pushes for progress in Church on women, gay blessings, celibacy

Austrian theologian presses bishops to find more (married and women) priests instead of closing churches


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