There’s a great piece in Vatican news written by a friend, Gudrun Sailer, a sister member of D.VA, Donne in Vatican (Women in the Vatican), an officially recognized body of women in the Vatican comprising current employees and retirees (like myself). It was great fun to read and I enjoyed the photos as I know a number of the women, having worked with them when I was also at the Vatican or having met some of them during D.VA meetings and social encounters.

I am especially delighted to see Francesca di Giovanni’s name because I have known her for decades and have followed her work – and her promotion by Pope Francis – all that time. She is due to retire after decades in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. We first met in 1994 when I was one of the members of the Holy See delegation to Cairo for the U.N. conference on Population, participating in pre-conference meetings in the Vatican. I was on three other Holy See delegations (with a diplomatic passport!) to U.N. conferences and I well remember Francesca being part of all the preliminary meetings in the Vatican.

Click on this link to see photos of some amazing Vatican women that you’ll read about in the second piece: 10 years of Pope Francis: Significantly more women working at the Vatican – Vatican News


At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, on the occasion of the annual March 8 celebration of International Women’s Day, Pope Francis called for applause for women, saying, “they deserve it,” while praising their “tender hearts” and “ability to construct a more humane society.”

“On International Women’s Day,” he said, “I think of all women: I thank them for their commitment to building a more humane society, through their ability to grasp reality with a creative eye and a tender heart. … This is a privilege of women alone! A special blessing for all the women in the square. And a round of applause for women! They deserve it!”

His remarks came after delivering the weekly catechesis on apostolic zeal, in when he noted that, “By virtue of the Baptism received and the consequent incorporation in the Church, every baptized person participates in the mission of the Church and, in this, in the mission of Christ the King, Priest and Prophet.”

Pope Francis also dedicated a March 8 tweet to women: “Let us #PrayTogether so that #women, every woman, may be respected, protected and esteemed. Violence against women and mothers is violence against God himself who, from a woman, from a mother, took on our human condition.”


In the past ten years, the number of women employed at the Vatican has risen significantly to 1,165. Never before has the number of female employees and their share of the total staff been higher, according to a Vatican News survey of the relevant Vatican authorities. The number of women in Vatican leadership positions has also grown under Francis.

By Gudrun Sailer

There are currently 1,165 female employees working for the Pope, compared to only 846 in the year Francis took office in 2013. The percentage of women in the total workforce at the Vatican rose in the current pontificate from just under 19.2 to 23.4 per cent today. These figures refer to the two administrative units Holy See and Vatican City State together.

The increase in female employees is even more pronounced if one looks exclusively at the Holy See, i.e. the Roman Curia. Here, the proportion of women has risen from 19.3 to 26.1 per cent over the past ten years. This means that more than one in four employees at the Holy See is now a woman – in absolute figures 812 out of 3,114.

In the ten-part salary scale used in the Vatican, most women in the Curia have been found for many years on the sixth and seventh levels. They thus exercise professions that usually require an academic degree, such as lawyers, department heads, archivists or administrative specialists. In 2022, 43 per cent of the women employed at the Curia worked at the sixth and seventh levels.

Women in senior positions

In the meantime, women have sporadically made their way up to the executive level, which goes beyond the ten-step salary scale. Today, five women hold the rank of undersecretary and one the rank of secretary at the Holy See. Secretaries and undersecretaries are the second and third levels of management respectively in most curia authorities and are part of the management team together with the prefect, i.e. the superior of the authority; all three levels are filled by appointment by the Pope.

At the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis appointed a female secretary for the first time in 2021, the Italian religious Alessandra Smerilli. It is the highest post ever held by a woman at the Holy See.

Undersecretaries at the Holy See currently work at the Dicasteries for Religious, for Laity, Family and Life (two female undersecretaries), for Culture and Education, and at the Secretariat of State. However, Francesca Di Giovanni (70), a lawyer who works there, will soon leave for reasons of age and will be replaced by a priest. The General Secretariat of the Synod also has an undersecretary, Nathalie Becquart, a French nun, although it should be noted that the Synod is not part of the Holy See (but is part of this statistical survey).

A recent development

Historically, the appointment of expert women to high Curia offices began with Paul VI. In his pontificate, the Australian Rosemarie Goldie worked at the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 1967 to 1976 as one of two vice-secretaries. After a long break, it was not until 2004 that John Paul II appointed the next undersecretary: Sister Enrica Rosanna at the Congregation for Religious.

Under Pope Francis, appointments of women to leadership positions have multiplied, even though they account for less than five per cent of all leadership tasks in the Curia currently entrusted to women, and for now, there is no female prefect as the “number one” of a Curia authority. But the course has been set: In the basic text for the Curia reform Praedicate Evangelium (2022), Francis made it possible that in future lay people and thus also women can lead dicasteries as prefects. This was previously reserved for cardinals and archbishops. In an interview last December, the Pope announced his intention to appoint the first female prefect in about two years.

In the Vatican City State, which is a separate administrative entity from the Holy See, Pope Francis appointed two women to top positions in the ten years of his pontificate: Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums in 2016, and Sr Raffaella Petrini, secretary general of the Governatorate in 2022. While lay people had always headed the Vatican Museums, the Italian nun took the place of a bishop in the Governatorate.

At the same time, the percentage of women employed in the Vatican State stagnated at around 19 per cent during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Regarding leadership positions, Francis has not only placed some women leaders in the Vatican, but has also appointed others to positions where they can “influence the Vatican while maintaining their independence”. He himself wrote this in his book Let us Dream. Thus, for instance, Francis was the first pope to appoint women as “members” of curial offices, a measure that went largely unnoticed. Until then, only cardinals and some bishops were members of the traditional “Congregations.” Members – along with prefects and secretaries – have voting rights in the plenary assemblies.

The Council for the Economy, consisting of 15 members, currently includes eight cardinals and seven lay people, six of whom are women, including the British Leslie Jane Ferrar, formerly Treasurer to Prince Charles of Wales. In 2019, Francis nominated seven female religious superiors to the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life in one fell swoop. In 2022, he appointed two women religious and a lay woman as members of the Dicastery for Bishops, where they participate in the process of selecting bishops for the universal Church, along with cardinals and bishops who are members of the Dicastery as they are.

In the ten years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has increased the presence, visibility and influence of women in the Vatican. Several times, however, he warned against seeing the task of women in the Church as well as in the Vatican from a purely functionalist point of view. In “Let us Dream”, Francis described it as a challenge for him to “create spaces where women can take leadership in a way that allows them to shape the culture and ensures that they are valued, respected and recognised”. By setting a course in favour of women, Francis ultimately wants Rome to become a model for the universal Church in this respect.



Join me again this weekend when I continue my conversation with three members of an American apostolate, Lourdes Volunteers. I talk to Marlene Watkins who founded the volunteers in the Jubilee Year 2000 – she’s a wonderful storyteller! Joining Marlene is Fr. Rob Hyde of St. Margaret’s Church in Syracuse, NY, spiritual advisor to the Volunteers and Deacon Dan Revetto of Los Angeles vice president of the Lourdes Volunteers. Wait until you hear how they bring Lourdes – a virtual Lourdes – to prisoners! Great stuff!

Are you still laughing at what Deacon Dan told us last week about his very first encounter in Lourdes with a patient entrusted to his care! I laugh just typing these words!

Please go their website (www.lourdesvolunteers.org) if you have a medical background and wish to help them in Lourdes. You’ll hear who and what they need in our conversation this week.


Pope Francis this morning welcomed members of the American Jewish Committee, noting that they have “had close contacts with the successors of Peter since the beginning of the official dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism.” He said, “your commitment to Jewish-Catholic dialogue goes back to the Declaration Nostra Aetate, a milestone in our journey of fraternal rediscovery.” (photo vaticannews)

He then told a story about what he called “cultivating good fraternal relations”:

“In this context, I would like to share with you an event that occurred in your part of the world. A young Catholic was sent to the front-line and experienced first-hand the horrors of the Second World War. On returning to the United States, he began to start a family. After much work, he was finally able to buy a bigger house. He bought it from a Jewish family. At the entrance was the mezuzah and this father did not want it removed during the renovations of the house: it had to remain exactly there, at the entrance. He passed on to his children the importance of that sign. He told them, one of whom was a priest, that this little “box” beside the door should be looked at each time when entering and leaving the house, because it held the secret for making a family strong and making humanity a family.

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. The Pope said, “I would also like to say a few words about the irreplaceable contribution of women in building a world that can be a home for all. Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive. They bring the grace of renewal, the embrace of inclusion, and the courage to give of oneself. Peace, then, is born of women, it arises and is rekindled by the tenderness of mothers. Thus the dream of peace becomes a reality when we look towards women.”

He then underscored “a source of great concern for him, … the spread, in many places, of a climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root. I think especially of the outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks in various countries.”

He reiterated “it is necessary to be vigilant about such a phenomenon” as “History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: ‘the human tragedy of the Shoah in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated’. I stress that for a Christian any form of anti-semitism is a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction.”

Francis stressed that, “In the fight against hatred and anti-semitism, an important tool is inter-religious dialogue, aimed at promoting a commitment to peace, mutual respect, the protection of life, religious freedom, and the care of creation. Jews and Christians, moreover, share a rich spiritual heritage, which allows us to do much good together. At a time when the West is exposed to a de-personalizing secularism, it falls to believers to seek out each other and to cooperate in making divine love more visible for humanity; and to carry out concrete gestures of closeness to counter the growth of indifference.”

The Holy Father, in closing remarks, noted that, “In serving humanity, as in our dialogue, young people are waiting to be involved more fully; they want to dream and are open to discovering new ideals. I want to emphasize, therefore, the importance of the formation of future generations in Jewish-Christian dialogue.”



Pope Francis this morning welcomed members of the American Jewish Committee. March 8th is International Women’s Day and Francis had this to say in his remarks to his guests:

“Today, 8 March, I would also like to say a few words about the irreplaceable contribution of women in building a world that can be a home for all. Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive. They bring the grace of renewal, the embrace of inclusion, and the courage to give of oneself. Peace, then, is born of women, it arises and is rekindled by the tenderness of mothers. Thus the dream of peace becomes a reality when we look towards women. It is not by chance that in the account of Genesis the woman comes from the side of the man while he is sleeping (cf Gen 2:21). Women, that is, have their origins close to a heart and a dream. They therefore bring the dream of love into the world. If we take to heart the importance of the future, if we dream of a future peace, we need to give space to women.”