VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - OCTOBER 29: (EDITOR NOTE: STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY - NO MERCHANDISING). Pope Francis presides Holy Mass over the conclusion of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at St. Peter's Basilica on October 29, 2023 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Sunday morning celebration on 29 October in Saint Peter’s Basilica marked the culmination of this first session of the Synod on Synodality looking at communion, participation, and mission. The next session will take place in October 2024.

Women Vote in a Critical Catholic Conference for the First Time Ever

For the first time in the Vatican’s history, women are participating in a critical conference of the Catholic Church. This is yet another instance in which Pope Francis is breaking with tradition. As expected, this change has garnered both consternation and praise.

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This particular closed meeting, the Synod of Bishops, involves making pivotal decisions on policy and the future of the church. The conference will address major contemporary issues such as LGBTQ outreach and women’s place in the church hierarchy. For the first time ever, women will hold 54 of the 365 votes. Though they are still overwhelmingly outnumbered, this is a drastic departure from Vatican business as usual.

Some Catholics have called this a “crack in the stained glass ceiling.” The Women’s Ordination Conference, which supports the movement towards women as priests, has celebrated the inclusion of women in the Synod as a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, the conservative Catholic women’s group Restore Tradition has been vehemently opposed to the inclusion of women in this event. 

The final session of the Synod will occur in a year. Some notes from the sessions have been released though. Despite hopes otherwise, no decisions have been made yet to change policy on women’s roles or LGBTQ inclusion in the Catholic Church. The Vatican has called these issues urgent but there is still no movement. 

Pope Francis has been the head of the Catholic Church since 2013. The 86-year-old Argentinian is the first pope in the modern era to hail from outside of Europe. Pope Francis has taken liberal stances on a number of current political issues. He has been critical of apathy and hostility towards migrants and has called for an ongoing Muslim-Catholic dialogue. He has also advocated for urgent action to address the climate crisis

However, despite these liberal stances, Pope Francis has remained conservative, declaring it impossible for women to be priests and refusing to accept same-sex marriage. Though no changes on these issues were charted at the Synod, perhaps they will be in the future. According to Pew Institute Research, young Catholics overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage. When younger generations finally assume positions of power within the Church, then there may finally be movement on these issues. Maybe one day, the Roman Catholic Women Priests who minister to congregations throughout the world will finally receive official recognition from the Vatican.

(featured image: Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

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