By Alvise Armellini
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – It would be “simplistic” to expect quick decisions on women, LGBT people and other hot-button issues from the Vatican summit that opened on Wednesday, one of the women taking part in the male-dominated deliberations told Reuters.
In one of the reforms introduced by Pope Francis, 54 women have for the first time been given voting rights in the so-called synod of bishops, which has 365 members, plus about 100 non-voting participants.
One of these women is Italian theologian, philosopher and Catholic activist Giuseppina De Simone, who spoke to Reuters in St Peter’s Square before joining the first session of the month-long gathering.
She described women in the synod as a “significant minority” and called their enfranchisement “a truly beautiful sign”. At the same time, she said she has never personally felt marginalised by the Roman Catholic Church.
The synod is opposed by conservatives who fear it might open the door to progressive reforms along the lines of introducing broader acceptance of divorcees and LGBT couples, or giving women a bigger role in Church affairs.
But according to De Simone, “it is extremely misleading and even simplistic” to expect synod members to answer specific questions such as whether women should become deacons or whether same-sex unions should be blessed by priests.
TIME TO REFLECT
Instead, she characterised the meeting as a collective moment of reflection for both the rank-and-file and leaders of the Church, which should include “the voices of all, even of those who do not recognise themselves in the Church”.
“It’s not a question of immediately finding solutions to problems, but of developing together an understanding (of these problems) which then leads to looking for the paths to follow,” she said.
“(We need to) have the courage of giving ourselves time to listen, to reflect and to search together … It is much more tiring, much slower to proceed in this way but it is also much more fruitful”, she added.
Synod discussions will run until Oct. 28 and will resume in 12 months’ time. A papal document will follow, most likely in 2025, meaning changes in Church teaching, if any, would be a long way off.
On Tuesday, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke whipped up conservative opposition against the synod, saying that with sufficient prayers from the faithful, the “gates of hell will not prevail against the Church”.
(Additional reporting by Oriana Boselli, Antonio Denti, editing by Gareth Jones)