The Portuguese Bishops’ head has called on the Church to “change the paradigm” on ministry and value the leadership of women.

– Church today “too focused on ordained ministries”

“To emphasise the feminine and the maternal is not just to seek a balance of powers or influences in the operational organisation of the Church. It is about changing the paradigm, changing the way of thinking: the world does not belong to those who command the most, but to those who build life the most. Ecclesial leadership is not founded on the idea of ​​power, but on life, care and service”, Bishop José Ornelas insisted today in a Eucharist in the Marian shrine of Fátima to mark the anniversary of the famous Miracle of the Sun.

The Bishop of the Setúbal diocese supported the insistence of Pope Francis – first in his prayer intention for October and then in this past Sunday’s Angelus – that “it is especially necessary to create broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church”.

Ornelas said that valuing the involvement of women “contributes firmly to the appreciation of ministries in the Church, of men and women”, in a Church climate which today is “too focused on ordained ministries”.

“The precedence of life, service [and] the care of the world and humanity requires the presence of men and women – in the diversity of each one’s gifts for the service of the brothers [sic] and for the mission of building a more just, more fraternal [sic], more inclusive world – also in the places where decisions are made for all, as the Pope has emphasised”, the bishop explained.

The president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference – who is a specialist in biblical studies – insisted that “together with the ministry of the apostles” it is necessary for the Church to appreciate and promote in its institutions “feminine signs, of motherhood, of Mary”.

The greater involvement of women in the highest levels of responsibility in the Church must not be an afterthought nor a “decoration” nor a “secondary or subsidiary element” to redress the fact of its traditionally all-male leadership, Ornelas stressed.

Instead, a feminine presence should be built into the Church’s very structure, since the involvement of women is “an important and determining element in the construction of the Church”, the bishop said.

– Populisms, nationalisms “certainly not God’s plan” for humanity

Last night in a vigil ahead of the Mass today Ornelas denounced “populist, self-serving and selfish” economic and political profiteering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bishop followed up today on that warning against populism, and pleaded that instead of falling prey to division the world come together to offer solutions in common to the social and economic problems highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We live in a time where populist movements manipulate nostalgia of the past – real and imagined fears, the danger of the foreigner, the danger of the one who thinks differently – [and] who use greed to possess and dominate and who even use the name of God and religious models for their interests”, the bishop deplored.

Ornelas gave two examples of political trends he considered especially dangerous: on the one hand, of “selfish and conflictive nationalisms” that are expressed in policies of “walls” to outsiders and are being “exacerbated” by the COVID-19 crisis, and on the other, of throwing up obstacles to a “world consensus” on “solutions to the problems of all, such as poverty, injustice, war and the depredation of the planet”.

“This is certainly not God’s plan nor the path that Mary points out to us”, Ornelas pleaded, adding that just as in politics neither should division find a home in the Church.

“The Church is filled with sons and daughters begotten by the Spirit, who become brothers and sisters because they have the same Father in heaven, regardless of their origin, race, skin color and social status. This is the seed of the new world, the fundamental model of the Church”, the bishop concluded.

Next on Novena:

Portuguese Bishops’ president denounces “populist, self-serving and selfish” economic and political profiteering from pandemic

More on Novena on women in the Church


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