Women at Core of Church Governance in CAR: Cardinal

Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga during the Wednesday, October 25 press briefing by Synod delegates. Credit: Vatican Media

Though not officially constituted in the ranks of the Catholic Church, women in the Central African Republic (CAR) play a significant role in the affairs of the Church in the country, Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui has said.

Cardinal Nzapalainga said in a Wednesday, October 25 briefing of the Synod of Bishops that he turns to women when he needs advice.

Responding to a journalist who asked about the possibility of considering women in more levels of governance in the Church, the Cardinal said that women are already involved in decision-making processes of the Church in CAR, albeit informally.

“Whenever we meet, we must always have a female standpoint. There isn't just what is formal, there is also what is informal. And there are many women to whom we go, asking for advice. They do not have a formal role but I listen to women and invite them to participate,” Cardinal Nzapalainga said.

He added, “By virtue of baptism, women cannot be left out. They must be associated in this process.”


He said including women in more levels of the Church governance “is work in progress”, and added, “It is ongoing and we must continue to look for ways through which women can express themselves more.”

The African Cardinal’s sentiments were echoed by Robert Francis Cardinal Prevost who has served as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops since 12 April 2023.

Maintaining that inclusion of women in Church governance is “work in progress” Cardinal Prevost, however, added, “Clericalizing women doesn't necessarily solve a problem. It might create a new problem.”

“Perhaps, we need to look at a new understanding of leadership, power, authority and service, above all service, in the Church from the different perspectives that can be brought to the life of Church by both women and men,” the American Cardinal said.

He observed that though women are being recognized in various levels of governance in society, including being presidents of countries, the same does not translate to the Catholic Church.

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He said that issues about leadership of women in Church are “questions that will be there, to continue to be reflected upon.”

Cardinal Prevost noted that women are continually taking new roles of leadership “including in the Holy See where a woman was just appointed as the number 2 in the office of the Dicastery for Consecrated Life.”  

Meanwhile, Cardinal Nzapalainga has called for patience as the Church continues to engage in the synod on Synodality conversations. According to the Cardinal, the ongoing synod does not offer ready answers to topics currently being discussed in the meeting of Bishops.

“This Synod is different from all other synods, needing a lot of time for discernment. There is no need to give an immediate answer to a certain topic because we can deepen it,” he said at the October 25 briefing, and added, “It is important to have this climate of silence and dialogue because this will allow us to move forward not under pressure but in a serene manner.”

“The synod is a time when we listen to each other, and there is an echo that resounds. This is how the spirit speaks to us. If I am truly humble, I can listen to my neighbor,” the 56-year-old Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in 2012 as Archbishop of Bangui said. 


Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.