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Vatican to prepare document on women role in Catholic Church leadership

The Vatican’s Doctrine Office will prepare a document on women in leadership positions in the Catholic Church as part of a new initiative to address longstanding demands for women to have greater influence in the life of the church, Voice of America reports.

The Vatican said on Tuesday that the document will be prepared by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith as its contribution to Pope Francis’s major church reform process. The process is entering its second major phase, which will begin in October with a meeting of bishops known as a synod. The Vatican announced details of the doctrinal document shortly after concluding its press conference on preparations for the October meeting.

Pope Francis convened the synod more than three years ago as part of an overall effort to make the church a “more welcoming place” for marginalised groups and where ordinary people have a greater say. That process and the two-year survey of ordinary Catholics that preceded it have raised both hopes and fears that real change is coming.

Role of women in the church

Catholic women do the lion’s share of church work in schools and hospitals and generally take a leading role in passing on the faith to future generations. But they have long complained of a second-rate status in an organisation that reserves primacy for men.

Pope Francis reaffirmed the ban on women priests, but appointed several women to high-ranking positions in the Vatican and called for discussion about other ways in which women’s voices can be heard.

This included a synod process that gave women the right to vote on specific proposals, a right previously only given to men. In addition, during his 11-year pontificate, he responded to the demand for ministerial positions for women by appointing two commissions to examine whether women could be ordained as deacons.

Deacons are ordained ministers, but not priests, although they can perform many of the same functions as priests: presiding at weddings, baptisms and funerals, and preaching. They cannot, however, officiate at Mass.

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