Support for a female candidate for archbishop in France has arrived from the other side of the world, with a group of Catholics in New Zealand saying she has the “knowledge and experience” to take on the role.

– “We think you would be an Archbishop with a fresh approach”

‘Be the Change’ – a group of laymen and women committed to promoting a greater female presence in the Church – told CathNews New Zealand August 13 that they were signing on to Anne Soupa’s campaign to become the new Archbishop of Lyon, which as of this Friday had collected an astonishing 17,328 signatures.

‘Be the Change’ also wrote to Soupa – a 73-year-old biblical scholar, theologian, journalist, writer and Catholic women’s rights activist – to tell her that they were “delighted” to learn that she has applied to succeed Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at the head of the French archdiocese.

“We think you would be an Archbishop with a fresh approach”, ‘Be the Change’ told Soupa, adding that “we feel you have the knowledge and experience to become Archbishop of Lyon”.

– Candidacy “helps us to imagine what gender equality in the Church will look like”

In their letter to Soupa, the members of ‘Be the Change’ told the candidate for the Lyon archdiocese that even though they understood she had little chance of actually being appointed for the role, her push was none the less important in terms of shedding light on vital issues in Church life.

One of those issues was gender equality in Catholicism, ‘Be the Change’ pointed out.

“Along with many other people worldwide, we saw this as a great opportunity to encourage the discussion about the ‘invisibility’ and lack of participation of women in leadership of the Catholic Church”, the group told Soupa with respect to her application.

‘Be the Change’ added that if canon law doesn’t permit women to be appointed as archbishops, then perhaps it is time to change canon law.

“Having a qualified woman as an applicant for the See of Lyon helps us to imagine what gender equality in the Church will look like”, the members of the group wrote to Soupa.

‘Be the Change’ also said that Soupa’s candidacy could be the right moment to deepen the discussion in the Church on possibilities around breaking the connection between priesthood and governance: something which even Pope Francis has on occasion hinted at exploring.

– Candidate seeks “to show that women are there, ready and able, with a faith that would move mountains”

‘Be the Change’ told CathNews New Zealand that they were pleased to have received a response from Soupa after having expressed their support for her bid for archbishop.

“I have not embarked on this enterprise in a spirit of provocation, but to offer my hand to a Church which is imprisoned in a false sense of loyalty to the past”, the candidate for Lyon archbishop told the Catholic New Zealanders.

“I wish candidates would stand all over the place, to show that women are there, ready and able, with a faith in their hearts that would move mountains”, wrote Soupa, before enquiring: “Would you have any candidates you could suggest?”

Soupa’s throwing her hat in the ring in the race to succeed Cardinal Barbarin has already inspired similar bids from other women in France who in July submitted applications to the nuncio in Paris to serve in the roles of lay preacher, deacon, priest, bishop and even papal ambassador.

More on Novena on Anne Soupa’s bid to become the next Archbishop of Lyon

More on women’s rights movements in the Church:

Female Catholic priest, to hierarchy: “If you don’t want women to celebrate the sacraments, console and bless… stop baptising us!”

Nuncio in France to meet with women ‘apostles’ seeking place in Church hierarchy as would-be female bishop receives death threat

7 women ‘apostles’ claim place in male-only Catholic hierarchy: “The Church is in a deep crisis, and we need to open up its doors”

7 women “apostles” apply for male-only ministries in Church to challenge “immense injustice” of Catholic sexism

French archbishop welcomes Anne Soupa’s bid for episcopacy, warns it would be “grave not to engage it seriously”


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