Pope Francis has appointed six women to the Vatican’s economic council, a first for the financial watchdog overseeing the administrative and financial structures of the Holy See.
The women will serve as lay experts on the 15-member body, which also includes eight cardinals and another male lay expert, the Vatican said in a statement on Friday.
Pope Francis instituted the council in 2014 as part of wider continuing efforts to bring more oversight to the Vatican’s financial dealings after a series of damaging scandals.
The Argentine pontiff has tried to give more power to women within the Vatican although leadership positions are still held by priests, bishops and cardinals.
In January, he named a woman, Francesca Di Giovanni, to a senior role within the Secretariat of State, equivalent to the Vatican’s foreign affairs ministry.
The Council for the Economy provides guidelines to the powerful Secretariat for the Economy, which coordinates the Vatican’s economic and administrative affairs.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, will remain the council’s coordinator, but Francis chose to largely renew the council by appointing 13 new members.
The female experts
The six women experts come from academia, politics and finance.
Two new German members are Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof, a law professor at the Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf and Marija Kolak, President of the German Association of Credit Unions and Volkskassen.
Two Spanish women named were Maria Concepcion Osacar Garaicoechea, chairman of Azora Capital and Azora Gestion and Eva Castillo Sanz, a lawyer and economist.
Two new British members of the council are former Labour Education Secretary Ruth Mary Kelly and a former financial adviser to Prince Charles, Leslie Jane Ferrar.
The one man among the appointed experts is Italian economist Alberto Minali.
The six new religious leaders on the council are Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary; Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec City, Canada; Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, USA; Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, and Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of L’Aquila, Italy.