Pope Francis names six women to Vatican council in historic shift

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Pope Francis appointed six women to oversee the Vatican’s finances on Thursday, making them the most senior women ever to serve there.

The new female members of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy — which seats 15 members and were previously all male — include Great Britain’s former Labour Party minister Ruth Kelly and Leslie Jane Ferrar, Germany’s Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof and Dr. Marija Kolak, and Spain’s Eva Castillo Sanz and María Concepción Osákar Garaicoechea.

The new appointees all have well-established backgrounds in finance.

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The seventh new appointee is Italian Alberto Minali, who has made a name for himself as an insurance mogul.

Of the 15 members on the Council, eight are cardinals and bishops, “so as to reflect the universality of the Church.”

According to Vatican News, the pope created the Council for the Economy in 2014 “to supervise the economic management” and “administrative and financial activities” of Vatican institutions.

Pope Francis greets a group of nuns during his weekly general audience, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis greets a group of nuns during his weekly general audience, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The council reviews budgets and balance sheets of all of the offices of the Holy See: the central administration of the Catholic Church in Rome, the papal diplomatic network abroad, and the sovereign Vatican City state in Italy.

The change comes as the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating recession have compounded the Vatican’s longstanding financial problems.

Pope Francis is viewed as more progressive than many of his predecessors.

Just a few months ago he appointed Italian lawyer Francesca Di Giovanni, a female, as undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. She was the first woman to hold a management position in the Vatican’s most important office.

In 2017, Italian art historian Barbara Jatta became director of the Vatican Museums, one of the world’s preeminent art collections.

Over the past decade, Vatican News reported that the total number and percentage of women working in the Vatican has grown. Last year, 22% of Holy See and Vatican City employees were women, up from 17% in 2010.

Under Pope Francis’ rule, the number of women undersecretaries — the highest position women had reached thus far — has doubled from two to four.

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“Pope Francis … has affirmed that the Catholic Church needs more women in leadership positions. In the Vatican and the Roman Curia, he is gradually preparing the ground,” Vatican News said in 2019.

“We must move forward without fear to include women in advisory positions, also in governance,” Pope Francis told Vatican officials last November. “The place of women in the church is not just as functionaries…Women’s advice is very important.”

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