Pope Francis’ doctor dies from COVID-19 ‘complications’
The 84-year-old broke with centuries of tradition as he installed Sister Becquart to the post of undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops. She is one of two new faces named to the Synod, which is a group of bishops that studies the huge questions of doctrine. Secretary general of the Synod, Cardinal Mario Grech, hailed the move exposing how it showed Francis’ wish for “a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church” had come true.
Her appointment has raised the prospect of her participating in Vatican votes, something women have never been able to do in the upper echelons of the Catholic church.
Francis’ willingness to ensure female inclusion within the church evolves, demonstrates which direction the pontiff wants the Vatican to move into, ensuring a more liberal approach to those who wish to join the faith.
Yet by implementing this agenda, Francis has left traditionalists within the church – such as former pontiff Benedict – “terrified” as they fear the rich history of Catholicism could be ripped apart.
Lynda Telford, a religious historian, told Express.co.uk that moves to install females in more powerful positions could split the Vatican.
Pope Benedict fury: Ex-pontiff ‘terrified’ of Francis as liberal nightmare comes true
Pope Francis alongside Pope Benedict
Benedict and Francis have routinely been at odds over their stance for the future of the church.
Benedict argues the traditions, such as celibacy, must be respected, while Francis wants to ensure more people can be welcomed into the religion.
This wedge between Benedict and Francis has grown bigger over recent years, Ms Telford said, as the ex-Pope attempts to exert his authority, despite resigning from the post in 2013.
She claimed Benedict “would be horrified” by any moves to bring women further inside the Vatican, adding: “Benedict is the old fashioned Priest, who thinks women are for praying and for breeding, who must stay at home and do as they are told.
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Pope Francis and Pope Benedict have been embroiled in a spat
“I think anyone who has a less forward thinking role in the Vatican will be concerned about this.”
Ms Telford, who wrote Women in the Vatican – Female Power in a Male World, argued the reason men in the Catholic church were “wary” of women, is “because they might find out women are capable”.
The expert suggested Francis had shown he does like women and is encouraging them to grow into positions of power.
She added: “I think he is very keen on bringing women into the Vatican, which is terrifying for the old guard of Benedict.
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Pope Francis has been in charge since 2013
“They really would not like the idea at all, but Francis is aware that things have to change otherwise the church will go under.”
Cardinal Grech commended Francis’ decision by saying it “emphasised the need that the entire church reflect on the place and role of women within the church”.
The alleged row between the two popes began after Benedict controversially stepped down in 2013, paving the way for Francis to take over the helm.
It was the first time since the 1400s that a living pontiff has stood down, and Benedict’s presence continues to be felt throughout the Vatican.
Although Benedict vowed to allow Francis to carry out his work, the 93-year-old claimed opponents were trying to silence him in a German biography last year.
Religion news: The Vatican
He alleged in ‘Benedict XVI – A Life’ that he was at the centre of row and had been a victim of “malignant distortion of reality” as a result of his attempts to intervene in religious debates.
In the book he said: “The spectacle of reactions coming from German theology is so misguided and ill-willed that I would prefer not to speak of it.
“I would rather not analyse the actual reasons why people want to silence my voice.”
Pope Benedict was the head of the church between 2005 and 2013, before he stood down due to the mental stresses of the role and the deterioration of his health.
Many have argued that while he is still alive, Benedict is able to exert an unusual amount of authority over those in the higher echelons of the church, which has led to Francis being unable to fulfil his modernisation mandate.