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Women challenge the Vatican Patriarchate

VATICAN CITY: Once a rare sight in the Vatican’s halls of power, women are increasingly being seen in higher positions under Pope Francis, but the battle over the genders is far from won.

The centuries-old institution has a patriarchal image, from the Swiss Guards outside the gates to the cardinals in St. Peter’s Square.

It reflects the broader Roman Catholic Church, which prohibits divorce, abortion, and the ordination of women.

But the Pope’s drive for reform has meant that more women have been given roles in the Vatican’s administration – even if they are mostly behind the scenes.

From economists to secretaries, historians and archivists, 649 women worked for the Roman Curia in 2019 – 24% of employees – compared to 385 in 2010, according to the latest figures available.

As the public celebrates change in the world’s smallest country, around 10 women, who were interviewed on condition of anonymity, told AFP the Resistancethey encounter and the condescension they face, especially among clergy.

One denounced “a glass ceiling and a general paternalistic attitude in the hallways,” with a backward-looking vision of “the sensitive, gentle woman we find in the Pope’s speeches.”

“We sometimes feel like they see us as interns. There are small gestures, a hand on the shoulder, lack of consideration, almost daily remarks about looks and dress,” she added.

Some described feeling subjected to an implicit directive for female employees to be quiet and docile. Others expressed frustration at being relegated to lesser roles.

“There’s still a long way to go,” said one woman.

“macho mentality”

In 2016, the Women of the Vatican Association was founded, a network of about a hundred members who meet every month “to empower women,” its president, Margherita Romanelli, told AFP.

This was followed by the creation of a monthly women’s supplement from just four years earlier L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican. The surprising initiative was praised by many, but quickly ran into trouble.

Its founder, Lucetta Scaraffia, a journalist and historian, resigned in 2019, denouncing a “climate of distrust”.

Francis’ reforms were essentially “cosmetic” and actually hid a “macho mentality” that implied that “women must serve without asking for anything in return,” she told AFP.

Scaraffia pointed to the “modern slavery” of nuns employed in the Vatican and elsewhere as “servants” in the homes of priests, bishops or cardinals who “cook, clean, do laundry” and are “underpaid.”

And she criticized the sexual abuse of nuns in Rome and elsewhere in the world.

One vote

Despite these criticisms, many welcome the acceleration of a process that began quietly some twenty years ago.

The number of women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican — which applies strict pay parity between the sexes — has tripled since Francis’ election 10 years ago, from Vatican Museums director Barbara Jatta to Alessandra Smerilli, the first woman , who was appointed the equivalent of a Vice-Minister.

“The Vatican is late, but women have a voice today, they can’t be pushed around anymore,” said an official in her 40s.

The leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics has enabled women to be more involved in Masses, from reading and acolytes to attending the Maundy Thursday footwashing ritual.

And Francis continues to make small steps forward, including changing the rules to allow women to play a role in appointing bishops.

“Such a development would not have been imaginable ten years ago,” said Gudrun Sailer, an Austrian journalist Vatican News and author of the book women in the Vatican.

“A long process”

Given the disconnect between these changes and the misogyny in the Vatican workplace, some women are wondering what strategy to pursue.

“Some think the truth should be told and bad behavior should be denounced, while others think it’s counterproductive and that we should be content with small steps forward,” one told AFP.

Romilda Ferrauto, a member of the Vatican Women, said changing mentalities was “a long process”.

“Franci’s method is to make gestures and wait for them to move the lines,” she said.

The changes within the Vatican come as the global church engages in a broad, month-long debate about its future.

Long before the #MeToo movement, Protestant churches took the lead in putting women at the top, and some theologians, like France’s Anne-Marie Pelletier, say the pope must now seize the opportunity to move faster and more decisively.

The ordination of women to deacons or even cardinals “would be a powerful symbolic gesture to break down these stereotypes,” she said.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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