Breaking with tradition, Pope Francis has appointed Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first woman to hold the post and have voting rights.
Saturday’s appointment signals the pontiff’s desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the synod.
“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.
“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”
The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote.
The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and lay people play a greater role in the church.
The pope named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other undersecretary.
Becquart, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master’s degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.