by Annalise Deal
In the last month, The Vatican has made significant strides in furthering their inclusion of women in the offices of the Church: Pope Francis appointed five women to the International Theological Commission as well as the first woman to a Vatican Congregation.
On September 23 the Vatican released the names of the 30 new members appointed to the International Theological Commission, who will each serve a five-year term. The IRC is an advisory body that assists the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in considering questions of doctrine. Though female theologians have had a voice on the Commission since 2004, before this year’s appointments, no more than two women had served at the same time. They now comprise 16 percent of the group. The group also stated that, “There is an increased number of extra-European appointees in the new composition of the Commission,” referring to the fact that numbers of members from Europe, Asia, and Australia have remained static, while there were increases in North and South America, and Africa.
Notable among the list of appointees is Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M., who wrote the multi-volume The Concept of Woman.
Just before this important announcement, on September 13, Sr. Luzia Premoli was appointed to the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Superior General of the Combonian Missionary Sisters will become first woman to ever serve on a Vatican Congregation.
Sr. Premoli joined the Comboni order at the age of 23, and has served as a missionary for eight years in Mozambique, and another eight in Brazil, where she was appointed Provincial. She was elected Superior General in 2010. While in Mozambique, during a time of strife and civil war, she saw people learn to value everything they had, even the most mundane of possessions. Learning to live life in this way, she was struck by the contrast when she went on a vacation in Brazil, “where things were wasted, and there was a love for unnecessary things.” Sr. Premoli says that this taught her, “to live a more sober life, to be able to evaluate everything we have,” which she will likely bring with her during her work at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
She told the Catholic News Agency, “the appointment took me by surprise, I did not expect it … but I was also joyful, because the appointment is a concretization of Pope Francis’ wish for more women in high ranking positions in the Catholic Church.”
Sr. Premoli acknowledged that Catholic “communities are full of women that give their personal contribution to the life of the Church.”
She also reflected on her own personal view of the importance of including women in higher-positions in the church; she believes that women have a very specific maternal compassion to offer. “The Church is called 'mother', and a mother must bear the announcement of this full and joyful life Jesus had given us,” she said.
Sr. Premoli’s hope that women will live into their important role in the Church reflects the same view that Pope Francis expressed earlier this year when he reflected on the fact that the Church has yet to come up with “a profound theology of womanhood.”
Both of these appointments mark a significant step towards establishing a more pronounced presence of women in the Vatican and especially in the higher offices of the Roman Curia.