Pope Signals Stronger Role for Women

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Suggests More Decision-Making Power, Shift on Divorcées.

The Vatican could soon make significant changes to the role of women in the Catholic Church and to its approach to divorcées, Pope Francis said in a newspaper interview.

As the anniversary of his election approaches, the Argentine-born pontiff also sought to rebuff criticisms that he has done too little to respond to the sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the church. He also touched on the issue of artificial birth control and sought to play down his huge popularity, saying that he is “not some sort of superman.”

In an interview granted to two newspapers, Corriere della Sera in Italy and La Nacion in Argentina, the pope said that women could have greater decision-making power in the church’s hierarchy.

Some Vatican experts have raised the possibility of the pope appointing women to senior positions in the Vatican bureaucracy, perhaps as the head of one of its powerful departments.

At a meeting last month of the College of Cardinals, a senior German cardinal said in a speech that divorced and remarried Catholics could rejoin the fold through the sacrament of confession. In the interview, Pope Francis praised the speech as “very beautiful and profound.” The church “must offer an answer” to divorced couples and their families, the pope said.

Pope Francis also cracked open the door to a new approach on the issue of artificial birth control, although he ruled out a major change in the church’s opposition.

He referred to the 1968 papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which dealt with the issue, saying it “all depends on how ‘Humanae Vitae’ is interpreted.”

“The issue isn’t about changing doctrine, but digging deep into the question and making sure that the pastoral approach considers specific situations and considers what is possible for people,” he said.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an advocacy organization for church leaders in the U.S., said the group doesn’t see the pope’s words as inviting any change in the church’s position against the use of artificial contraception.

“Basically what you’re seeing here is another emphasis on mercy,” Sister Walsh said. “Mercy is becoming the hallmark of this papacy.”

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