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Vatican's new female advisory group 'a good start'

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The council was actually established in 2015
By Elise Harris


Photo: Shahrazad Houshmand, an Iranian theologian and member of a group of female consultants to the Pontifical Council for Culture, speaks at the Vatican March 7. (Paul Haring / CNS)

A new advisory group for the Pontifical Council for Culture is being hailed as the beginning of a greater representation of women in leadership at the Vatican.

On March 7, the council presented its 37-member Women's Consultation Group, which it established in 2015 as a way to give women a voice in places where it can frequently be lacking in the Vatican.

Member Donna Orsuto, director of the Rome-based Lay Center, called the group “a good start.”

“I think there are many other ways, or in the future there will be many other ways, in which women can be more present, more involved in the Church, especially in the Roman Curia,” she told CNA.

Orsuto voiced her hope that as the group carries out its work, members will be able to “work together ... as women, but also with the council.”

“This idea of men and women working together for the good of the Church and society” is key, she said, adding that she’s “very pleased that the focus isn’t just on women and women’s issues.”

Council president Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi said that inside his dicastery, like many other Vatican departments, there were no women at the management level. “They were only there in an administrative sense as secretaries.”

While the women who are part of the consultative group aren’t necessarily department managers, they serve as a response to “this lack of the presence of women in the Roman Curia.”

Cardinal Ravasi said he did not form the group in response to those who were angry about the lack of women; nor did he want the women to be a “‘cosmetic’ element in the sense that they were (only) a symbolic presence” or a mere viewpoint on “an only male horizon.”

Instead, the cardinal said he simply wanted “a feminine perspective” over every activity the dicastery does, including official documents.

A woman's viewpoint, he said, “can see beyond our gaze” and offers a perspective that’s different and at times unexpected.

“It's a question about interpretation, of prospective, of analysis, of judgment, above all, and also of proposal,” he said, explaining that the group will participate actively in both the preparation and duration of the council’s next plenary meeting.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 March 2017 13:23  

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