VATICAN CITY: Women and lay people will be able to vote in the next general assembly of bishops, the Vatican announced today, in a symbolic change for the Catholic Church.
“This is a significant crack in the stained glass ceiling,” the US-based Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) said in a statement, hailing a “historic” moment.
The next phase in an ongoing global consultation on the future of the church is set to take place in October in Rome, and for the first time, the right to cast ballots will not be reserved to male clerics.
New rules published today said 70 people would also be chosen to take part “who represent various groupings of the faithful of the people of god (priests, consecrated women, deacons, lay faithful)”.
“It is requested that 50% of them be women and that the presence of young people also be emphasised,” the rulebook said.
The 70 would be hand-picked by Pope Francis and account would be taken “not only of their general culture and prudence, but also of their knowledge, both theoretical and practical”.
“As members, they have the right to vote,” it said.
The consultation on the future of the church is looking at major issues, from the handling of sex abuse cases and the role of women to the rights of remarried divorcees.
Since his election in 2013, Francis has progressively expanded the roles of lay people and women, notably by increasing the number of women appointed to the Curia, the central “government” of the Holy See.