Pope appoints six women to Vatican’s Council of the Economy

VATICAN — On Thursday, Pope Francis has appointed six women to the Vatican’s Council of the Economy in a fulfillment he made years ago to increase gender equality in the enclave.

Until these appointments, the 15-member Council was all male. By statute, it must include eight bishops — who can only be male, according to Church doctrine — and seven laypeople.

All of the appointees are Europeans with strong backgrounds in finance: Leslie Ferrar (U.K.) Ruth Kelly (U.K.), Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof (Germany), Marija Kolak (Germany), Maria Concepción Osácar Garaicoechea (Spain), and Eva Castillo Sanz (Spain). The layman on the council is Italian Alberto Minali.

“That six are women is a pretty big quota,” said Joshua McElwee, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. “But the important thing here is that these six women are part of a group that essentially oversees all of the financial activities of the Vatican, so obviously that’s a pretty top-level group.”

The appointment of the six women to some of the Vatican’s most important financial offices are the Pope’s latest attempt to deliver on promises made years ago to achieve a more gender balanced Catholic Church and come at a time when Church coffers are suffering due to closure of churches and drastically reduced museum attendance caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the move, some women’s groups say that the pace of change is far too slow.