Senior posts in the Roman Catholic Church have always been male-dominated as the church has always preferred ordained priests at Vatican’s diplomatic and administrative nerve center.
Pope Francis broke the norm on Wednesday when he appointed 66 years old Francesca Di Giovanni to serve as undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. She is the first female to hold such a senior post. Di Giovanni is a specialist in international law and human rights and has worked at the Secretariat of State since 1993. She will be responsible for coordinating the Holy See’s relations with groups including the UN.
“The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of attention towards women. But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman. I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as we,” she said.
Pope Francis has been vocal in his support for women holding greater positions of authority in the Vatican. He has been considering easing the ban on married men serving as priests, following a gathering by Catholic bishops from around the world in October to deliberate on the future of the Church in the Amazon.
However, his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, a theological conservative with traditional views on Catholic values does not share in his views as he insists that celibacy, a centuries-old tradition within the Church, has great significance because it allows priests to focus on their duties and that it doesn’t seem possible to realize both vocations [priesthood and marriage] simultaneously.