Updated: February 08, 2021 07:00 AM GMT
Pope Francis holds a candle during a Mass on the World Day of Consecrated Life at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on Feb. 2. (Photo: Vatican Media/AFP)
Pope Francis has made history by appointing a nun as an undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops with voting rights.
The pope on Feb. 5 appointed 52-year-old Sister Nathalie Becquart from France, giving her voting rights in the body that advises him on crucial issues taken up by the Church.
Sister Becquart of the Xaviere Sisters congregation has been working with the synod since 2019 as a consultant.
Cardinal Mario Grech, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said the appointment showed that "a door has opened."
With the possibility "that she will participate with the right to vote, a door has been open. We will then see what other steps could be taken in the future," the Maltese cardinal said.
Set up by Pope Paul VI in 1965, the Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution "to keep alive the spirit of collegiality engendered by the conciliar experience."
Father Luis Marin de San Martin, a priest from Spain, was also appointed as a new undersecretary of the synod.
Working with Cardinal Grech, Father Marin and Sister Becquart will prepare the Vatican's synod on synodality, slated for October 2022.
On many occasions, Pope Francis has expressed the desire for greater participation of women in the Church's decision-making process.
In another first in the Church, in May 2019, Pope Francis appointed Sister Becquart and two other women as consultors for the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.
Recently, the pope formally changed canon law to allow women to participate at the altar.
Sister Becquart had earlier served as director of the National Service for Youth Evangelization and Vocations in France and was the first woman to hold that position.
With the appointment of Sister Becquart, "the role of women in the life of the Church" is getting clear because "a synodal Church is a Church characterized by listening," Cardinal Grech said during an interview with Italian media.
Sister Becquart joined her congregation in August 1995 and took her final vows in September 2005.
Father Marin belongs to the Order of St. Augustine. He holds a licentiate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Comillas University in Madrid and another in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1992.
The Synod on the Pan-Amazon Region in 2019 saw 35 women auditors attending the special assembly. However, none of them had voting rights.