This January marks a huge shift in the history of Vatican employment. Pope Francis appointed the first ever female lawyer into the Vatican’s diplomatic division.
This division, known as the Holy See, has never had a woman working within it, but that all changed this past month.
Francesca Di Giovanni is the first woman to ever be appointed into a position within the Vatican, as the new Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs.
The Holy See works with foreign relations and international affairs with other intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations, and is essentially the central government of the Roman Catholic Church.
Di Giovanni has worked in the Secretariat of State for 27 years, and has been working in refugee and migration issues as well as international human rights, the position of women, tourism and much more.
“I think it’s great that they’re starting to have more women in [higher] positions, but I do understand why women can’t hold some positions. [Catholicism] is a very traditional religion, so that’s why things like that don’t really change,” said Bridget Eshleman (‘20).
Many women groups, especially a group known as the International Union of Superiors General, have been calling for the Vatican to allow more women to hold positions, as they feel they are underrepresented in the religion they make up a large part of.
While Di Giovanni may now be the highest ranking woman working for the Roman Catholic Church, there are other women working within the Vatican, and this news gives hope to more women who wish to be either represented better within the Church, or would like to one day work among it.
The Catholic Church currently only allows men to become ordained priests, so the allowance of a woman to be in such a high-ranking division of the Vatican is a rare and intriguing feat for Di Giovanni to have accomplished at the ripe age of 66.
Pope Francis has been no stranger to shaking up the Vatican since his Papal inauguration. Not only is the Pope attempting to integrate more women into high-ranking positions within the Church, he also leans more progressive with his views on same-sex marriage and the celibacy of priests.
Pope Francis, in past speeches, has discussed his views on the importance of women becoming more involved in everyday workings at the Vatican, and he claimed that women were “mediators of peace” and that their talents could be utilized to create a more united and peaceful space.
While this new position may begin to excite many women of faith, they also remain cautious of these changes, because while opportunities for women may begin to arise, gender roles are still very much being pushed.
“With any political position, or anything like that, I honestly believe that regardless if it’s a man or a woman, whoever is best suited for the job should get it. I don’t necessarily know if they should give [a position] to someone just because they’re a woman, especially if it’s out of pity,” said Eshleman.
Di Giovani, in an interview with the Vatican news, also commented on her new position, discussing her thoughts on being a working woman so high up in the Vatican’s political system. She also stated that she had no idea that the Pope was going to call upon her to take the position.
The world now looks to the Vatican and the Pope, all itching to see what progressive decision he will make next.