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Letter from Rome: Synod of Bishops is not a Vatican office

Imprecise language leads to confusion and lack of understanding is reinforced by using the wrong words

Letter from Rome: Synod of Bishops is not a Vatican office

Nathalie Becquart, a French Catholic religious sister and member of the Congregation of Xavieres, is the first woman to have the right to vote in the Synod of Bishops. (Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

Pope Francis' decision to appoint Xaverian Sister Nathalie Becquart as one of two co-undersecretaries at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is a truly historic moment for the Catholic Church.

The 52-year-old French religious is not just the first woman to be given the No. 2 position in this Rome-based office. She is also the first layperson — male or female — to be named to a post that was mostly recently held by a bishop.

In fact, Father Luis Marin de San Martin, the Spanish Augustinian who was appointed co-undersecretary alongside Sister Becquart, will be ordained to the episcopate.

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We know why she will not be. The Catholic Church has never ordained female priests or bishops. And the current pope has said he's not in favor of changing that because, in his words, "it would lead us to clericalize women."

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