“The role of women in the world has increased and this is something the Church has to ask itself about,” Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri told Reuters reporters this week.
“They must have a much more important role in the life of the Church … so that they can contribute to Church life in so many areas which are now, in part, open only to men … This will be a challenge for us in the future,” Sandri argued.
But as speculation mounts as to who Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI successor will be, (with many sure he may be a non-European) Sandri believes it should not come down to a question of geography but rather the ability of that man to lead the Church in a time of crisis.
The cardinal believes one of the greatest challenges facing the Church is its ability to stay in touch with its believers and the world around them, with what Sandri identified as an increasing need to try and win back those who suffered from “a loss of faith” or who he believes have “turned their back on god”.
Presently, women of the church are nuns and can only reach the very under-secretary roles in Vatican departments; up until now, only two women have held the position of under-secretaries, one a nun and the other a laywoman.
However Sandri, who has been named a key papal candidate, believes it is “only right” that women be given a louder voice in the Church, “where they can make a very important contribution because of their qualifications”.
“But they must also be co-participants in the dialogue and the analysis of the life of the Church and in (other) areas, even in the formation of priests, where they can play a very, very important role,” he added.
The Roman Catholic Church states that only men can become priests, as they were the chosen apostles of Jesus.
In a 40-page statement released in 2004, the Vatican depicted a women’s characteristic traits as: ‘Listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.’ The statement sparked fierce debate about the attributes of women – especially by feminists and activists of the feminist movement.
In 2010, with calls for female priests ringing louder, the Vatican made a statement likening the ordaining of females into the all-male Catholic priesthood to a “grave sin.”
But a sudden drop in numbers of female Catholics may give women in the Church the leverage they need to be included in this traditionally all-male club.
It remains to be seen whether the role of women will change for the catholic church, but what is clear is that it will be a key issue to the survival of the Church and catastrophic for Catholicism if the new Pope and his cardinals continue to ignore the changing world around them.
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