Statement: Catholic Network for Women’s Equality – Canada Welcomes Pope Francis’ Appointment of First Woman to Synod of Bishops: Another Step Forward but Not Enough

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 8, 2021 (REVISED* February 11, 2021)

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality – Canada (CNWE) says that while Pope Francis’ recent appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart to the position of Under-Secretary to the Synod of Bishops is a step forward for women in the church, equality for women in the Church still has a long way to go. 

On February 6, the Vatican announced the appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart of France as Under-Secretary to the Synod of Bishops. For the first time, a woman will have voting rights at the vital decision-making synods of bishops that have occurred every few years since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Pope Francis also named Italian magistrate Catia Summaria as the first woman in the role of Promoter of Justice in the Vatican’s Court of Appeals. We congratulate Sister Nathalie Becquart and magistrate Catia Summaria on these appointments. 

Catholics around the world, seeking justice and equality for women in the Church, have been calling for voting rights for women in the deliberations of the Church since before Vatican II. On one level, the members of CNWE celebrate these appointments. The appointments  represent decades of persistent advocacy by Catholic reform groups, women religious and some clergy. The appointments also signify that Pope Francis is listening and taking initial steps  to ‘open the door’ to women’s greater participation in decision-making roles in the Church.

CNWE is also concerned, however, that the Vatican appointment of women to a few high-level positions is also a form of ‘tokenism’. To have only one woman permitted to vote at a church synod, is in no way sufficiently representative of Catholic women, who make up more than half the church. While we welcome Pope Francis’ recent appointments as small steps forward, CNWE will continue to work for full recognition of the baptismal equality of women in an inclusive, just and accountable Catholic Church.  


Although our original statement of February 8 reported (based on credible mainstream press reports) that the Vatican had put the German Catholic women’s organization, Maria 2.0 ‘under observation’, we have since learned that this is not the case.