Pope Francis on Saturday appointed a woman as an undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops for the first time, reported BBC. She was named to the position alongside Father Luis Marín de San Martin.
Sister Nathalie Becquart will have voting rights in the Synod of Bishops – an advisory body for the pope that debates major matters related to the Roman Catholic Church. Sister Becquart, who belongs to France, has worked as a consultant with the synod since 2019.
Becquart said that the appointment was a call to “serve the Universal Church”, reported Vatican News. The main job is “to help and lead the preparation of the Synod, then the celebration, then the next stage of the implementation”, she said.
When asked how it felt to be the first woman to hold the position, Sister Nathalie said she saw it as a sign and felt the appointment signified “confidence in women in the Church”.
She said that Pope Francis was listening and giving a reply, which is a step forward for a Church with “women and men together to serve the common good of the world”.
Cardinal Mario Grech, the body’s secretary-general, said the appointment reflects the pope’s desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”.
The synod is led by bishops and cardinals, who have voting rights, reported AFP. It also comprises experts who cannot vote. A special synod held in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but no one was allowed to vote.
“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” Cardinal Grech said. “With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”
The appointed came less than a month after the pontiff formally changed the law in the Church to allow women to administer communion and serve at the altar. However, the order stated that ordained priesthood would remain open to men only. Last year, the pope appointed six women to the council, which oversees the Vatican’s finances.
Becquart is a member of the Xaviere Sisters. She has a master’s degree in management from the HEC business school in Paris.