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New roles for women in Catholic reform?

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madonna, women in catholic church, popeCautious optimism follows Vatican announcement about involving more women.

Newly-appointed Pope Francis recently announced the formation of an advisory committee that will focus on reforming the Catholic Church.

The leader of the committee, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, from Honduras, told the Sunday Times that he was ‘backing more posts for women.’

As encouraging as that statement may be, optimism was tempered following Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi’s qualification of the Cardinal’s statement.

“It is a natural step,” said Father Lombardi.

“There is a move towards putting more women in key roles where they are qualified.”

Who will determine ‘where they are qualified’ is likely to be a point of contention, particularly regarding the ongoing battle over ordination for women.

The advisory committee announcement came just weeks after the Pope’s surprise inclusion of women in his Easter celebrations, from washing the feet of two female prisoners to praising ‘female witnesses for believing in the resurrection.’

Led by Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, the origins of the eight cardinals on the committee seem to hint at the potential for change.

Only one of the eight is already a part of the Church’s governing hierarchy, the Roman Curia, and each continent is represented.

The cardinals on the committee are: Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican City State governorate; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa from Chile; Oswald Gracias from India; Reinhard Marx from Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; George Pell from Australia; and Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston, USA.

The Vatican’s announcement also mades it clear that while the group will advise Pope Francis on Church governance, the committee will have no legislative power.

Two of the group’s priorities will be the Roman Curia and the Vatican’s constitution, which may help address some of the calls for reform following widespread allegations of sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by the Church.

The Church’s central form of administration, the Curia, has gained a reputation for infighting and corruption, with a number of recent scandals and controversies during Pope Benedict’s reign.

In Father Lombardi’s press briefing, he pointed out that the announcement of the formation of the committee came exactly one month after Pope Francis’ election ‘and showed that the Holy Father “listens attentively” to the suggestions of the College of Cardinals – his closest collaborators.’

The committee’s first meeting will be held on 1 October 2013.

Women around the world will be watching closely to see how well Pope Francis listens to their concerns.

  1. We will indeed be watching most attentively and praying for appropriate consideration of our very real concerns as female catholics

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