Since Pope Francis took over as the head of the Catholic Church in 2013, he’s made a name for himself as a progressive papal reformer, despite drawing criticism from theological conservatives. And while you’d be hard-pressed to call the pope “liberal”—for example, he remains vehemently opposed to abortion and has strongly criticized gender theory—he has taken steps in recent years to expand women’s roles within the Catholic Church. The most significant move he’s made recently: the February 2021 appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart as an undersecretary to the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the first woman ever to hold this position. And not only that, Becquart’s new position gives her the right to vote during the summit of bishops—another first, as the privilege has traditionally been reserved for only men.
“The most important thing is to have women from the beginning involved in the process, bringing their views, taking part in the discernment, writing the text,” she told Religion News Service in an Oct. 2021 interview.
Becquart, a member of the Xavière Sisters in France, has played an important role in France’s youth ministry over the years, leading to her involvement in the planning of 2018’s synod of bishops on “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” both in France and Rome. Prior to receiving the undersecretary role, she and four other women became the first female consultors to the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in 2019. Very few women have as much say as Becquart on shaping the future of the church. The next Synod of Bishops will take place October 2022 with the theme: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”
“If you’re a leader, you’re under a magnifying glass. If you don’t own who you are, you are not pushing others’ perception of what a conductor looks like.”