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Pope rules any baptized lay Catholic, including women, can head Vatican departments


Pope Francis gestures during his weekly general audiences in the Paul VI hall of the Vatican on October 14, 2020.

Alberto Pizzoli | AFP | Getty Images

Pope Francis issued Saturday’s Curia constitution, which outlines that anyone baptized as a lay Catholic can lead the Vatican’s departments.

Many Vatican departments are headed by male clergymen, most often cardinals. Praedicate Evangelium (Preach The Gospel), a 54-page new constitution took over nine years.

The new version will be in effect from June 5th, replacing the one that was approved by Pope John Paul 2 in 1988.

A part of the preamble states: “The Pope, Bishops and Other Ordined Ministers Are Not the Only Evangelizers in The Church.” In addition, it says that both men and women are “to have roles of governance and responsibility.”

In the Constitution’s principles section it states that “any member or faithful can head any dicastery (Curia division) or organization” provided the Pope appoints and qualifies them. The constitution does not distinguish between laymen and lay women.

According to the 1988 Constitution, departments should be headed by either a cardinal, or a bishop, with support from a secretary and experts.

The pope spoke out in 2018 to Reuters about his decision to shortlist a female candidate for the head of a Vatican economic division, but that she couldn’t accept the position due personal reasons.

Francis named Sister Raffaella PETRINI, the top-ranking women in the world’s smallest nation, for the number 2 position in Vatican City’s Governorship.

Last year, he also named Sister Alessandra the Italian nun to be the interim secretary for the Vatican’s development office. This is responsible for justice and peace matters.

Francis appointed Nathalie Belcquart (a French member of Xaviere Missionary Sisters) as co-undersecretary of Synod of Bishops. The Synod of Bishops is a division that organizes large meetings of world Bishops each year.