In a historic move, Pope Francis has given women the right to vote in the upcoming Synod of Bishops meeting, a global gathering of bishops scheduled for October, according to the Associated Press. Previously, women were only allowed to attend the meeting as observers, while men cast the majority of the votes.
Catholic women’s groups had long advocated for the right to vote, and the US-based Women’s Ordination Conference praised the reform as “a significant crack in the stained glass ceiling.” The change is seen as remarkable for an institution that has been male-dominated for centuries.
About 300 people attend synods, and the majority of those with voting rights are bishops. However, the Pope has decided to appoint 70 non-bishop members of the synod, half of whom will be women. The aim is also to include young people among these non-bishop members, who will be proposed by regional blocs, with the Pope making the final decision.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, a top organizer of the synod, called the change “an important change” but “not a revolution.” The next meeting, scheduled for October 4 to 29, will focus on making the church more reflective of and responsive to the laity, a process known as “synodality” that Francis has championed for years.
Pope Francis has upheld the Catholic Church’s ban on ordaining women as priests, but he has appointed several women to high-ranking Vatican positions. No women head any of the major Vatican offices or departments, known as dicasteries. Despite this, the new voting rights for women at the Synod of Bishops meeting have been welcomed as a significant step forward for women’s representation in the Catholic Church.