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Pope to allow women to vote in Synod

The Pope will for the first time allow women to vote in an upcoming synod, the Vatican announced on Wednesday, a new sign of Francis’ efforts to give women a greater voice in the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope also increased the number of lay people attending next October’s Synod, which meets regularly at the Vatican to discuss important issues such as how to deal with divorced couples. The upcoming Synod will focus on fostering greater participation of believers as the Church moves forward.

In 2021, Francis changed the church’s laws so that women can serve as Bible readers at Mass, serve at the altar and distribute communion — practices already common in many countries. But women are still prohibited from becoming deacons.

The synod rule changes were announced Wednesday in a document outlining synod norms.

Most participants will still be bishops, but an additional 70 “non-bishop members” have been added under new norms approved by Francis. Among them, “requires that 50 percent of them be women, and also emphasizes the presence of young people,” according to the norm, which also adds that, as members, “they will have the right to vote.”

In addition, five nuns will represent the religious community, along with five clergy, who will also have voting rights. The Pope could also add other players, the Vatican said.

Women have participated in past meetings as auditors.

Leaders of groups working to promote women in leadership positions in the Roman Catholic Church staged a protest at the Vatican during a 2018 synod, demanding that women participating in the synod be given a vote “as equal as their brothers in Christ” right. A petition with more than 9,000 signatures was delivered to the secretary of the Synod.

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