Pope Bolsters Women at Vatican but Resistance Remains
Pope Francis has significantly increased the Vatican’s female workforce, including in high-ranking positions, but women face continued resistance from the all-male Catholic hierarchy to access leadership positions in the church, according to Vatican statistics and independent surveys released Wednesday.
The data was released as Francis marked International Women’s Day by thanking women “for their commitment to building a more humane society, through their ability to grasp reality with a creative eye and a tender heart.”
In the Curia alone — the Holy See offices that actually run the universal Catholic Church — the percentage of women has now hit 26%, such that one in four employees is female.
And while no woman heads a Vatican office, more women hold top decision-making positions than at any time in the Vatican’s history.
Among them is Sister Raffaella Petrini, the first-ever female secretary general of the Vatican City State, responsible for the territory’s health care system, police force and main source of revenue, the Vatican Museums.
Petrini, a member of the Meriden, Conn.-based Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist religious order, said Wednesday during a Women’s Day speech that her nomination had raised eyebrows, “more than I expected in my ingenuity.”
She acknowledged that her philosophy of organizational leadership had encountered some resistance, particularly within the Vatican’s old guard, but that younger employees were more open to the collaborative teamwork that she promotes.
“Even in non-ecclesial organizations, resistance is part of the process of change,” said Petrini, a professor of welfare economics at Rome’s Pontifical Angelicum University.