Women deserve bigger role in Catholic Church leadership, says key cardinal

March 4, 2013

(Argentinian Cardinal Leonardo Sandri arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

The Roman Catholic Church must open itself up to women in the next pontificate, giving them more leadership positions in the Vatican and beyond, according to a senior cardinal who will be influential in electing the next pope.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69, an Argentine, also said the next pope should not be chosen according to a geographic area but must be a “saintly man” qualified to lead the Church in a time of crisis.

He said one of the greatest challenges facing the Church was trying to win back those suffering from a “loss of faith” who had “turned their back on God” and the Church of their fathers.

Sandri, an experienced diplomat and past number two in the Vatican bureaucracy, is expected to wield great influence in the choice of the man to succeed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“The role of women in the world has increased and this is something the Church has to ask itself about,” Sandri said in his office just outside St Peter’s Square where he heads the Vatican department for Eastern Catholic Churches.

“They must have a much more important role in the life of the Church … so that they can contribute to Church life in so many areas which are now, in part, open only to men … This will be a challenge for us in the future.”

At present women, most of them nuns, can only reach the position of under-secretary in Vatican departments, the number three post after president and secretary, which so far have been held by ordained men. Currently only two women are under-secretaries, one a nun and one a lay woman.

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