Sister Nathalie Becquart: New phase of Catholic Church
Sister Nathalie was the first woman to be appointed as a consultor to the Catholic Church in 2019. In 2021, she is given the voting position of under-secretary in the ‘Synod of Bishops’ (Advisory body to Pope). She is the first woman who held such a key position in the history of the Vatican. Sister Nathalie will vote in the 2022 Synod of Bishops.
Why is it a great decision?
This move of ‘Pope Francis’ is seen as an end to the patriarchal mindset. Under his term, many women have assumed high-level decision-making responsibilities in the Catholic Church. Pope’s decision gives a brave signal to the greater involvement of women in Church governance.
It is a historic move as women have shared a second-class status in Catholic Church for years. Many top Vatican offices including the papacy (office of the pope) are reserved for men. Earlier religious sisters could only speak and participate in the bishop’s debate with no voting rights.
To this effect, religious sisters led a popular movement during 2018, Synod of Bishops on youth. Various prominent nuns participated in the movement which was also promoted by progressive women’s groups.
Finally, the movement bore the fruit in 2021. The appointment of Sister Nathalie came with praise but also bitterness. Because she is the lone woman among hundreds of male bishops, who will be casting her ballot about the future life of the Catholic Church.
This is a stark example of unequal treatment of women and men in the Church. To be truly progressive we need women on the Senate/ Synod of Bishops and so Sister Nathalie was appointed as the under-secretary.
Sister Nathalie Becquart is a French religious Catholic who was born in Fontainebleau (a community in the metropolitan area of Paris). She began her studies in the subjects of theology and philosophy at Centre Severus (theology school in Paris, which educates people to serve as Clergy or Christian Community). Sister Nathalie took a degree course in theology at Boston College of Theology. So her recent training in theology is on the topic of ‘synodality’
Synodality in simpler terms means the process of governing the church in a democratic way and teaching the doctrine.
Why Sister Nathalie doesn’t wear a habit/veil despite being a nun?
As the photos of Sister Nathalie came out. People realized that she was not wearing a habit or veil. They started questioning it. Going back in details, it was found that Sister Nathalie actually didn’t wear a habit or veil because she belongs to the congregation (assembly) of Xavières. She joined the Institute in 1955.
The Congregation of Xavières is a Jesuit (people of Jesus Society) inspired Institute of religious sisters. It is founded in 1963 during Vatican II. It is a new wave of a religious order (a group of people who live in accordance with their specific religious devotion) that didn’t have a habit/veil. The Sisters wear street and lay clothes.
The Jesuits were initially males so when this congregation became official during the Vatican council, it was something groovy and cool. The Vatican Council had a different way of understanding religious orders rather than going by the traditional way.
What will be the role of Sister Nathalie as an under-secretary?
Sister Nathalie with other cardinals will help in formulating and overseeing the ‘Apostolic Exhortation’ which the pope then publishes as a Magisterium.
An apostolic exhortation is written by the Pope. It is a pastoral message to Catholics which highlights the key points about a particular issue. It is written with the consultation of the ‘Synod of Bishops’.
She will be able to make key decisions in the Catholic Church. Her appointment signified the confidence in women in the Church.
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