Vatican summit calls for giving women more church responsibility

A four-week summit has ended with a call to give women bigger roles in church decision-making. Only seven nuns were invited to participate in the nearly 300-member synod.

A monthlong meeting of Catholic leaders ended on Saturday with a call to strengthen the role of women in the church's decision-making. The summit concluded that the church must embrace "inescapable change" and that it was a "duty of justice" to bring more women to the table.

The lack of women in positions of power was highlighted by the fact that only seven nuns were invited to participate in the nearly 300-member synod and were not allowed to vote on the final document produced by the meeting.

 "It's a duty of justice, that finds its inspiration in the way Jesus related to the men and women of his time, as well as the importance of the role of some female figures in the Bible, in the history of salvation and in the life of the church," a concluding statement read.

Pope Francis organized the meeting to discuss how the church could better minister to youth. It was quickly taken over by issues important to younger Catholics, including women's rights, LGBT rights, and the clergy sexual abuse scandals.

Nature and Environment | 01.09.2018

An attempt to include language about LGBT Catholics hoping to find "greater closeness and experience greater care by the Church" in a final document was struck down by several conservative bishops.

5 years of Pope Francis

'Buona sera!'

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio greeted the crowd in St. Peter's Square in the heart of Rome with a simple "good evening!" moments after the Conclave had selected him as the new pope. He thus began his term with a down-to-earth tone that has marked his stewardship of the Catholic Church ever since.

5 years of Pope Francis

Reform committee 'K9'

The new pontiff immediately tackled topics that the Catholic Church had been discussing before his election. He set up a nine-person cardinal conference to reform the church's organization and direction. The guiding principle: the Roman Catholic Church is not an end in itself. Instead, it should seek to spread the teachings of the Bible and bring the Vatican and its followers closer together.

5 years of Pope Francis

Supporting the weak

The deaths of migrants crossing from Africa to Europe are "a thorn in the heart," said Pope Francis on his first bridge building trip to Lampedusa. At the time of his visit in the summer of 2013, thousands of migrants were on the Italian island hoping to receive legal permits to continue their journey onto the European mainland.

5 years of Pope Francis

Symbol of humility

It aligned perfectly with his own message of the "poor church:" the picture of Pope Francis with the 30-year-old Renault 4 that he had received as a gift from a pastor in Verona. Francis reportedly wanted to drive the car, but was not allowed to due to security concerns. The symbol of modesty has endured.

5 years of Pope Francis

Francis the celebrity

Francis' worldly style quickly made him an icon for progressive Catholics and other Christians. Even non-Christians applauded the pope and rubbed their eyes in amazement at the contrast between Francis and his conservative and academic predecessor, Pope Benedict. After 10 months in office, Francis became the first pope to make the cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine.

5 years of Pope Francis

Controversial bridge builder

Francis takes his task as bridge builder very seriously. He has acted as a mediator between warring parties in civil conflicts in central Africa and Colombia and also helped bring an end to frozen relations between the US and Cuba. With an eye toward the Mexican-US border, he has also urged US President Donald Trump to build bridges rather than walls.

5 years of Pope Francis

Believers and religions from all corners of the earth

Francis has also tried to build bridges between confessions and religions. He prayed at the wailing wall in Jerusalem and met the Grand Mufti Mohammad Hussein. In Egypt, he visited the head of the Coptic Church, Tawadros II, and Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb. In Myanmar, he spoke to Buddhist monks and in Havanna, he met with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kyrill I (pictured).

5 years of Pope Francis

People person

Francis spontaneously wed a couple on an airplane during a trip to Chile in January 2018. The two crew members were traveling with the pope on a flight from the capital Santiago to the northern city of Iquique. They had apparently told Francis of their plans to marry.

5 years of Pope Francis

Criticism from within the church

Francis' reform course has been too radical for some clerics. This poster in Rome accused Francis of showing no mercy within the church. He reportedly also has little time for dissent within the Vatican. Some church members think his course is too secular, his humility too bold, its display too media-orientated. The essence of religiosity – spirituality – some fear, could get lost in it all.

5 years of Pope Francis

Sexual abuse scandal in the Church

But the major challenge now faced by Francis is the problem of sexual abuse, including of minors, by church representatives. In January, the pontiff was heavily criticized for supporting Chilean Bishop Juan Barros (pictured right), accused of an abuse cover-up. On a recent trip to Ireland, the pope begged for forgiveness amid an abuse scandal there. But critics say much more is needed.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput told the synod that he objected to the mention of the LGBT community because "there is no such thing as an 'LGBTQ Catholic' or a 'transgender Catholic' or a 'heterosexual Catholic,' as if our sexual appetites defined who we are."

Pope Francis has made tentative attempts to increase acceptance of groups traditionally cast out by the church, including divorced people and sexual minorities. But his mild attempts at reform have been met with strong pushback from the Vatican's deeply entrenched traditionalist bureaucracy.

es/amp (AP, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.