January 6, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contact: Deborah Rose-Milavec, Co-Director (debrose@futurechurch.org, 513.673.1401); Russ Petrus, Co-Director (russ@futurechurch.org, 216.228.0869)

Today, the Vatican announced that the appointment of Sr. Natalie Becquart as Undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops – a body comprised of bishops and other ordained clerics that was first established by Pope Paul VI in 1965.

This is the first time that a woman has been appointed to this position at the Synod of Bishops and it is especially important because it means she will have deliberative power within the office, and she will be among those who vote at the next Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Since 2015, through its daily reports from the Synod on the Family, FutureChurch began drawing attention to the issue of women's roles and voting at the synod, especially after Pope Francis made an exception that allowed a non-ordained male religious superior to vote with the same standing as ordained clerics.

In 2018, FutureChurch began working collaboratively with Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), Voices of Faith (VOF), Catholic Women Speak (CWS), Donne per la Chiesa, and many other national and international organizations in the "Votes for Catholic Women" campaign -- witnessing, educating, and advocating for the vote for Catholic women religious. Of note, was the WOC led witness in Rome where advocates prayed, sang, and chanted, “Knock, knock. Who’s there? More than half the church.”

The work continued during the 2019 Amazonian synod with FutureChurch, Voices of Faith, Women’s Ordination Conference, and Donne per la Chiesa organizing a variety of events, including the witness of orange caped Swiss Benedictine nuns of Fahr Monastery in Rome. The organizations also delivered the petition to the Synod of Bishops office.

“We applaud all our sister organizations, as well as, the leadership of the International Union of Superiors General and others whose hard work and tenacity have helped usher in the beginning of authentic inclusion in this Catholic decision-making process,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, co-director of FutureChurch.

Today’s announcement is especially important in light of Pope Francis’s 2018 Apostolic Constitution “Episcopalis Communio” which states that “The General Secretary and the Undersecretary (now Sr. Nathalie Becquart) are appointed by the Roman Pontiff and are members of the Synod Assembly” (Art. 22, No. 3).

As such the members have the right to vote, which was confirmed in an interview with Vatican News, when Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the synod, said, “possibilità di partecipare con diritto di voto,” which properly translated to English means “she can participate with the right to vote.”

Further, under “Episcopalis Communio,” the synod body moves from a consultative body to a deliberative one. As such, the final document of a synod can become part of ordinary magisterial teaching. This adds critical importance to this new avenue for women’s authority as teaching and policy are being developed and decided in this body.

“FutureChurch applauds today’s announcement from Pope Francis,” said Russ Petrus, co-director of FutureChurch. “We see it as another sign – another step - toward opening the doors wide for women to participate fully and equally in the Synod of Bishops, in synod gatherings, and in all decision-making processes in the Catholic Church.”