Pope Francis in long-awaited update from Vatican administration says lay Catholics, men or women, can lead departments

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Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on March 16, 2022.VATICAN MEDIA/Reuters

Pope Francis on Saturday released a new constitution for the Vatican’s central administration, known as the Curia, stating that any baptized lay Catholic, including women, can lead Vatican departments.

Most Vatican departments were headed by male clerics, usually cardinals. The new 54-page constitution, called Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel), took more than nine years to complete.

It will enter into force on June 5, replacing the one approved in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

Part of the constitution’s preamble says, “The pope, bishops, and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the Church,” adding that lay men and women “should have roles of government and responsibility. “.

The principles section of the constitution says that “any faithful member may lead a dicastery (department of the curia) or body” if the pope decides who are qualified and appoints them. It makes no distinction between lay and lay people.

The 1988 constitution stipulated that departments should be headed by a cardinal or bishop and assisted by a secretary, experts and administrators.

In an interview with Reuters in 2018, the pope revealed that he had shortlisted a woman to head a Vatican economics department, but she could not accept the position for personal reasons.

Last year, Francis appointed a woman as the number two governor of Vatican City for the first time, making Sister Raffaella Petrini the highest-ranked woman in the world’s smallest state.

Also last year, he appointed Italian nun Sister Alessandra Smerilli to the interim post of secretary of the Vatican’s development office, which deals with justice and peace issues.

Additionally, Francis appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xavier Missionary Sisters, as co-under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops, a department that prepares for major meetings of bishops around the world that are held every few years.

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