WelCom September 2020
Pope Francis has appointed six women to help oversee the Vatican’s finances, in the most senior roles ever given to women within the Catholic Church’s leadership.
The appointments mark the most significant step by Francis to fulfil his promise of placing women in top positions and righting the gender balance in senior Vatican posts. Until now, the 15-member Council for the Economy was all male. By statute, the council must include eight bishops – who are always men – and seven laypeople.
‘That six are women is a pretty big quota,’ said Joshua McElwee, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. ‘But the important thing here is that these six women are part of a group that essentially oversees all of the financial activities of the Vatican so obviously that’s a pretty top-level group.’
The female appointees are all European and have high-profile financial backgrounds. The group includes two British women – Ruth Kelly, a former banking executive and cabinet minister in Tony Blair’s Labour Government and Leslie Ferrar, a former treasurer to Prince Charles. The other women are Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof and Marija Kolak, both from Germany, and Maria Concepción Osácar Garaicoechea and Eva Castillo Sanz, both from Spain. The only lay man on the council is Alberto Minali, a former director general at Generali, the Italian insurance company.
The appointments come as the Vatican struggles with its finances, with problems worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and a sharp drop in the number of visitors to the Vatican Museums, a cash cow for the Holy See.
Francis created the Council for the Economy in 2014. ‘It is essentially the board of surveillance for everything financial within the Vatican, with the only person above it being Pope Francis,’ said McElwee.
Other women who have obtained prominent positions during Francis’ papacy include Barbara Jatta, who heads up the Vatican Museums, and Francesca Di Giovanni, the undersecretary of the Vatican’s secretariat of state. Pope Francis has also appointed four women as councillors to the Synod of Bishops, which prepares major meetings.
Francis has also named the eight cardinals on the Council. He has renewed German Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s mandate as ‘cardinal coordinator’ and that of South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier.
The new cardinals and bishops named to the Council are: Cardinals Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary; Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo; Gerald Lacroix of Quebec; Joseph W Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Anders Arborelius of Stockholm; and Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila, Italy.
Sources: The Guardian, Reuters, UCA News
Vatican’s Council for the Economy
Pope Francis created the Council for the Economy on 24 February 2014, with the Apostolic Letter Fidelis dispensator et prudens. The Council’s task is to supervise the economic management of the structures, along with the administrative and financial activities, of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as the Institutions connected with the Holy See and Vatican City State.
The Council is composed of 15 Members, eight of whom are chosen from among Cardinals and Bishops, so as to reflect the universality of the Church. The other seven are experts of various nationalities, with financial expertise and recognised professional credentials.