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Pope Francis arrives for the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 29, 2023. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Pope to allow women to vote

April 27, 2023

    (CNN) — Pope Francis will allow women to participate and vote for the first time at an upcoming meeting of Catholic bishops in October.

The meeting, known as a synod, normally only allows bishops to vote.

Pope Francis on Wednesday approved guidelines that will expand participation and voting to include lay people and women.

The changes allow for the participation of 70 non-bishop members, of whom 50% should be women, according to the Vatican’s synod office.

A synod is a gathering of bishops which takes place at the request of the pope to discuss a particular topic. It does not have authority to set rules or change church doctrine, but is a consultative body which votes on proposals for the pope.

Announcing the changes on behalf of the pope were Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Secretariat for the Synod, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Synod’s General Relator.

Speaking at a press conference at the Holy See on Wednesday, they said: “This is not a revolution but an important change.”

Commenting on the fact that half of the 70 should be women, the cardinals said this is so “because that is the way our world is.”

The US-based Women’s Ordination Conference advocates for women priests. Although the development is a long way from the campaign group’s stated aim, it was nonetheless warmly welcomed by them.

In a press statement published on its website in reaction to the news, the organization said it “celebrates” the development.

“This is a significant crack in the stained glass ceiling, and the result of sustained advocacy, activism and the witness of the collaborative ‘Votes for Catholic Women’ campaign, of which the Women’s Ordination Conference played a founding role,” it said.

The theme of the October Synod is “Synodality” which will look at the involvement of lay people in the governance of the church among other topics.

The October meeting is part of a three-year long synodal process which will conclude in 2024.

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