Appointment of Women to Vatican Dicastery an “important development”: South African Nun

Sr. Phuthunywa Catherine Siyali . Credit: Sr. Phuthunywa Catherine Siyali/Facebook

An official of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has lauded Pope Francis' decision to appoint three women to the Dicastery of Bishops, and described the move as an “important development” in the history of the Catholic Church.

On July 13, Pope Francis appointed Sr. Raffaella Petrini, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, and Dr. Maria Lia Zervino to work alongside other members in the Dicastery that facilitates the choosing of Catholic Bishops for Dioceses across the globe. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, the SACBC Associate Secretary General said that she is “very happy and excited with the female appointments”.

The appointment of the three women is “an important development in the history of the Catholic Church, as women are the backbone of the very male dominated Church,” Sr. Phuthunywa Catherine Siyali said during the Tuesday, July 19 interview.

“Pope Francis is moving us forward; he is saying let's recognize the active fitness and the continuation of women’s contribution to the life of the church”, Sr. Siyali.


The decision by the Holy Father to appoint the three women to the Vatican Dicastery needs to be “eye opening and an opportunity for the Church in Africa among our own Bishops, among our own Priests, not only from the Hierarchy point of view, but even among the laity themselves, who tend not to recognize the role of women,” she said. 

The member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross added that the Church in Africa needs to “start locally to recognize the abilities and competencies of women and then promote it regionally, provincially and internationally.”

“The Church in Africa belongs to the universal Church, and we as a Church should be excited and happy about this move, and I hope that the Church in Africa will be open to that,” the SACBC Associate Secretary General told ACI Africa.

In the July 19 interview, Sr. Siyali expressed the need to include women from Africa and Asia in high-ranking positions within the Vatican, arguing that all the three recently appointed women hail from Europe and Latin America.

“I would have loved to see women from other continents such as Africa and Asia,” the South African Catholic Nun said.

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She however recognized the Holy Father’s decision “as a starting point”, and explained, “I think it's important for the Pope to start with those he is familiar with, so that he can see whether this move works.”

“I hope that in future it does not remain confined to Europe, it should spread to other continents,” the Associate Secretary General of the Conference that brings together Catholic Bishops in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa told ACI Africa July 19.

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.