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Women in the Vatican

It is a big coincidence that the Vatican is choosing a new Pope at a time when the International Women’s Day is round the corner. Western countries advocate women’s rights; women are closely associated with the Vatican administration, but nobody ever talks about the representation of women in the higher ranks of the Catholic Church.

It is good to spread the message of equality, but it is important to begin good deeds at home.

Catholics have been choosing their Pope for almost 2000 years now. In the beginning, Popes were selected from European countries, but as the religion expanded, St. Peter’s Square was opened for all. People across the world, from Japan to Africa started gathering in the Vatican, but the basic administration never changed.

There is a myth about Pope Joan, a lady in the 13th century, who disguised herself as a man to become the Pope. The internet is full of stories of Pope Joan. It is hard to say if they are true, but even then she was not accepted for who she was, she had to disguise herself.

Being a man is one of the basic requirements for being a Pope. Even for being a priest, you need to be a man. Leonardo Sandri, a cardinal from Argentina and one of the important figures involved in selecting the Pope, emphasized the importance of women inside the Vatican administration. He said that women should be appointed to ranks higher than those of the Under-Secretary, but he too avoided the need of selecting a female priest, Cardinal or Pope.

Martin Luther, the German reformist changed the working of Church in the 16th century, only to be rejected by the Vatican. There can be a female Priest in Protestant churches, but in Catholicism, it is still a taboo.

Religions have changed with time. There are a few female Muslim Imams reciting prayers. Of course, this was not an easy step. They had to face a lot of opposition. Similarly with Sikhism, when Bibi Jagir Kaur was selected as the President of Sri Gurudwara Prabhandhak committee in India, she faced criticism from several groups.

If the Vatican takes a step, it could become a controversy. It is possible that thousands of Catholic organizations, still controlled by males, will oppose it. But the world saw a similar kind of opposition when women were first given the right to vote, when they were given high ranks in the army or when they were first sworn in as ministers in a government.

The Vatican needs to think about it. The new Pope will have to face the challenges of corruption and scandals in the church, at the same time it will be a challenge for him to give more rights to women. Thinking of a female Pope at the moment is nothing more than a dream, but the Vatican can at least open a few doors.

Author: Anwar Jamal Ashraf

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


07.03.2013 | 15:29