The Pope has flagged his desire to include more women in Vatican leadership, saying that women’s advice is “very important”.

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“We must move forward to include women in advisory positions, also in government, without fear”, Francis told members the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in an audience November 16.

The Pope commended the Dicastery for having two women under-secretaries – both married with children – but said that just two women in Vatican leadership positions is “too few”.

“The place of women in the Church is not just for functionality”, Francis insisted, adding that, even so, women could perfectly well be appointed as heads of Vatican dicasteries, or departments.

In this sense, Francis revealed that he had recently considered two women for the post of Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, which this week ultimately went to Spanish Jesuit Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves.

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“Women’s advice is very important”, the Pope told participants in Saturday’s audience.

He recalled that women’s voice have given another perspective to the Church’s sex abuse crisis.

Particularly in the summit with the presidents of the world’s episcopates in the Vatican in February, in which one of the subsecretaries of the Laity, Family, Life Dicastery, the Pope said, offered “another way of looking at and thinking about” the pedophilia crisis, and that that “enriched” the discussion.

Francis explained he was in favour of giving key Vatican positions to women, but that the Church had to be careful not just to make women work.

“The role of women in ecclesial organisation, in the Church, goes further and we must work on this as well because a woman is the image of ‘Mother Church'”, the Pope insisted.

Why it matters

As well as encouraging the Church to include more women in leadership, the Pope also focused in his talk on the inherent dignity of laypeople.

Francis warned pastors against “the danger of clericalising the laity”, who have their own vocation “to be witnesses to Christ in private life and in society”, and “‘visible signs’ of Christ’s presence in every environment”.

Bishops should let up on the pressure on laypeople and, above all, make sure not to let permanent deacons become “first-class altar boys or second-class priests”, but instead “custodians of service”, the Pope said.

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