Pope decides baptized lay Catholics, including women, can head Vatican departments

©Reuters. Italian laywoman Francesca Di Giovanni, who was appointed by Pope Francis as the first woman to a senior post in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, is pictured at the Vatican December 23, 2013. Picture taken December 23, 2013. Vatican Media/Hand

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Saturday introduced a landmark reform that would allow any baptized lay Catholic, including women, to head most Vatican departments under a new constitution for the central administration of the Holy See.

For centuries, departments have been headed by male clergymen, usually cardinals or bishops, but that could change from June 5 when the new charter comes into force after more than nine years of work.

The 54-page constitution, called Praedicate Gospel, was released on the ninth anniversary of Francis’ inauguration as pope in 2013, replacing one issued in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

The preamble states that “the pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelists in the church,” adding that lay men and women have “governing and responsible roles” in the central administration, called the Curia , should have.

The principle section of the constitution states that “any member of the faithful may direct a dicastery (curial department) or organism” if the pope decides they are qualified and appoints them.

According to the 1988 Constitution, departments were to be headed—with few exceptions—by a cardinal or bishop and assisted by a secretary, experts, and administrators.

The new constitution makes no distinction between lay and laity, although experts said at least two departments — the bishops’ department and the clergyman’s department — are headed by men because only men can be priests in the Catholic Church.

According to the experts, the department for consecrated life responsible for religious communities could in future be headed by a nun. It is now led by a cardinal.

In a 2018 interview with Reuters, the pope said he had shortlisted a woman to head an economics department at the Vatican, but she could not take the job for personal reasons.


The new constitution said that the role of lay Catholics in running the Curia was “essential” because of their familiarity with family life and “social reality”.

Francis also merged some offices, created a new one to oversee charity efforts, and established a new hierarchy.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Young People, which includes lay people and victims of abuse, appears to have gained more institutional influence by being incorporated into the Doctrine Department, which decides sanctions for priests convicted of sexual abuse.

But one of the original members of the commission, Marie Collins of Ireland, said on Twitter (NYSE:) that doing so could harm her independence.

While the Secretariat of State retained its leading position as the administrative, coordinating, and diplomatic department, the centuries-old preeminence of the Magisterium was placed behind that of the Evangelization Department.

The pope will direct the evangelization office himself and emphasizes the importance he attaches to spreading and reviving the faith.

Francis has already appointed a number of lay people, including women, to Vatican departments.

Last year, for the first time, he named a woman number two in the Vatican City governorship, making Sister Raffaella Petrini the highest-ranking woman in the world’s smallest state.

Also last year, he appointed Italian nun Sister Alessandra Smerilli as interim secretary of the Vatican’s development office, which deals with issues of justice and peace.

In addition, Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Missionary Sisters of Xaviere, as deputy undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, which prepares major gatherings of world bishops every few years.

(Refiles to correct typos in 8th paragraph)

https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/pope-rules-any-baptized-lay-catholic-including-women-can-head-vatican-departments-2787909 Pope decides baptized lay Catholics, including women, can head Vatican departments

Chris Barrese

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