Pope Francis, known for his progressive views, has made another significant step towards modernizing the Roman Catholic Church by officially allowing women and laypeople to vote on major matters, including LGBT relationships, during the upcoming bishops' conference.
The conference, referred to as the "Synod on Synodality," will take place between October 4 and 29 and will see the introduction of 70 non-bishop voting members, with the Pope desiring half of them to be women. The previous 10 male representatives of different Catholic religious orders who held voting rights will be replaced by five male clerics and five nuns with the right to vote.
Additionally, synod undersecretary Nathalie Becquart, a nun, will also have voting privileges.
While the synod does not have the authority to directly implement changes, it serves as an advisory body to the Pope regarding decisions he makes.
The Catholic News Agency reported:
After the vote on a final document for the assembly, the pope alone decides whether to take any actions based on the recommendations in the final text or whether to adopt it as an official Church document.
Many observers have welcomed the change with open arms. Kate McElwee, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, told The New York Times, "It's an incredible development in the church's history, and something that we're celebrating as a significant crack in the stained-glass ceiling."
Deborah Rose, co-director of Future Church, expressed her excitement, stating:
It's church changing. It is paradigm changing; it is literally restructuring one of the most important ways that the church makes decisions and looks at pastoral issues within the church ... what he has done is open a dam and opened a door, and I think there's no going back.
However, the conservative Catholic site Silere non possum criticized the move, claiming that Pope Francis and the cardinals responsible for the synod "are trying, in every way, to bring into this institution all those people who have an interest in disrupting the church for their own personal ambitions."
The post added, "No longer finding many bishops willing to trample on Christ's teaching, they are now turning to ambitious laypeople."