SHAFAQNA- Pope Francis has appointed a woman for the first time to a high-ranking role in the Vatican’s most important office.
Italian woman Francesca Di Giovanni, 66, who has worked at the Secretariat for 27 years, will assume the newly-created post in a division known as the Section for Relations with States where she takes the rank of under-secretary, effectively one of two deputy foreign ministers. She’ll manage the Vatican’s relationships with multilateral organizations such as the United Nations.
She holds a law degree and has worked in the areas of migrants and refugees, international humanitarian law, and the status of women.
The story notes that Di Giovanni is the first woman to hold a position at that level in the Secretariat of State, the department which includes the Section for Relations with States.
The Roman Catholic Church allows only men to be ordained as priests and women have traditionally been consigned to the shadows of its administration.
“The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women,” Di Giovanni said, according to the news site. “But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman.”
She said she was surprised by the appointment, as she “never would have thought the Holy Father would have entrusted this role to me”, CNN reported.
Dr Di Giovanni referred to the Pope’s homily, adding that as a woman she might possess ‘certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart’.
“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 well,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of “encouraging dialogue” and “seeking diplomatic solutions” in the diplomatic community.
In recent months, however, Francis has expressed a desire to include more women in decision-making roles, according to NPR.
In his New Year’s Day address, the Pope denounced violence against women and spoke about gender equality, telling the congregation that women “should be fully included in decision-making processes.”
“Every step forward for women, is a step forward for humanity as a whole,” he said.
A few other women hold a similar rank in other Vatican offices, including the undersecretary at the Vatican’s congregation for religious orders and two undersecretaries in the Vatican office for laity. But the Secretariat of State is the most powerful Vatican office, coordinating the internal work of the Holy See bureaucracy as well as the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries.
Despite Francis’ promises to appoint more women to decision-making jobs in the Vatican, Dr Di Giovanni joins only around half a dozen females holding them. The two most prominent are Barbara Jatta, head of Vatican Museums, and Cristiane Murray, deputy head of the press office.
Last year, Francis also appointed four women as first female councillors for the Synod of Bishops, a department founded more than 50 years ago that organises major summits of world bishops held every few years on a different topic, Metro reported.
Women’s groups, including the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), an umbrella group of Catholic nuns, have long called on the pope to appoint more females to senior jobs within the Vatican bureaucracy.
They cite figures showing that more than half of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics are women and that membership of female religious orders is about three times larger than male orders, Reuters told.