The Vatican today announced that Pope Francis has appointed 14 new members to the Dicastery for Bishops, including two nuns and a lay woman from Argentina.

This dicastery, formerly a congregation, is the Vatican office responsible for naming new bishops around the world. Bishops in mission territories, however, are usually appointed by the Dicastery for Evangelization.

Named to this dicastery were Sister Raffaella Petrini, FSE, secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Sister Yvonne Reungoat, FMA, former superior general of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and Doctor Maria Lia Zervino, president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. (Vatican photo: L-R: Sr. Petrini, Sr. Reungoat and Maria Lia Zervino)

The 2020 Annuario Pontificio or Pontifical Yearbooks listed one nun working in the then Congregation for Bishops, Sister Uribe Solis Maria de los Angels, SGCS.

SISTER RAFFAELLA PETRINI, FSE: (Nov 5, 2021: from “The Angelicum,” the magazine of the Dominican Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, aka the Angelicum): Pope Francis has appointed Angelicum professor, Sr. Raffaella Petrini of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist (F.S.E.), as the Secretary General of the government of Vatican City State. Sr. Raffaella is the first woman to hold this position. Her appointment is a source of joy for our university, since Sr. Raffaella obtained her doctorate from the Angelicum’s faculty of Social Sciences in 2015 and she currently lectures in that same faculty. Sr. Raffaella Petrini belongs to the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Congregation, and was born in 1969. She currently teaches Welfare Economics and Sociology of Economic Processes at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Angelicum. She holds a Doctorate in Social Sciences from the Angelicum in Rome; a Master of Science in Organization Behavior, Barney School of Business, University of Hartford (CT), USA, and a Degree in Political Science (specializing in Industrial Relations) from LUISS in Rome.

SISTER YVONNE REUNGOAT, FMA: Sister Reungoat was born in Plouénan, north-west France on 14 January 1945. She studied Salesian religious life when she was admitted to the Paris Postulancy in 1963. She entered into religious service on 5 August 1965. She earned a degree in History and Geography from the University of Lyon and became a school teacher in Lyon for 11 years. Between 1996 and 2008 she was member of the General Chapter and in 2002 was elected Vicar General of this institute. Sr. Yvonne is one of the first seven women appointed members of the then Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, named on July 8, 2019 by Pope Francis. She is also the 9th Superior General of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco – and first non-Italian – since 2008. In January 2021, she was appointed Officer of the Légion d’Honneur. She had previously been awarded the Medal of Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour (Wikipedia).

DOCTOR MARIA LIA ZERVINO, president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. With today’s papal appointment, she becomes the first lay woman as a member of the Dicastery for Bishops. An Argentinian, she is a friend of Pope Francis’ from his days in their native country. In March 2021, she wrote a personal Letter to Pope Francis that was published in the Jesuit magazine, “America.” (Dear Pope Francis: Thank you for 8 years of challenging and healing the church. But women still deserve more. | America Magazine)


On January 15, 2020, Pope Francis appointed Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, currently an official of the Secretariat of State, as under-secretary for the Section for Relations with States, responsible for the multilateral sector. Born in Palermo in 1953, Dr. Di Giovanni has worked in the Secretariat for 29 years and holds a law degree. After completing practicum as a notary, she worked in the juridical-administrative area at the International Centre of the Work of Mary (Focolare Movement). On September 15, 1993 she began work as an official in the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State. She has served in the multilateral sector, especially in the areas of migrants and refugees, international humanitarian law, communications, private international law, the status of women, intellectual property, and tourism.

Besides Di Giovanni, perhaps the most well-known and prominent woman in a Vatican leadership position is Barbara Jatta, who was appointed as director of Vatican Museums by Pope Francis in 2017.

In addition, in 2017, the Holy Father named Gabriella Gambino and Linda Ghisoni, two women married with children, as under-secretaries at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in 2017.

At the Vatican Dicastery for Communications where the number of lay people is high compared to other departments of the Holy See, two women hold senior managerial positions. Slovenian Natasa Govekar heads the Theological-Pastoral Department, the Brazilian Cristiane Murray is Vice Director of the Vatican Press Office.

The numbers of women in leadership positions in the Vatican has grown considerably with Pope Francis in the years of his pontificate.

We may be hearing more in the near future about women being promoted to leadership positions because the March 19, 2022 publication of the new constitution on the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium, foresees a greater presence and participation of the lay faithful in the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis recalls in the Preamble that, “The Pope, the bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the Church… Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is a missionary disciple to the extent that he or she has encountered God’s love in Christ Jesus.” Hence the involvement of laymen and women in the roles of governance and responsibility. If “any member of the faithful” can preside over a Dicastery or a curial body, “given their particular competence, power of governance, and particular function,” it is because every institution of the Curia acts in virtue of the power entrusted to it by the Pope.

That constitution came into force on June 5, 2022, Pentecost Sunday.

(Sources: Vatican News: January 15, 2020; March 6, 2020; March 21, 2022)