We are happy to collaborate with our Italian sisters—Donne per la Chiesa— and with Women’s Ordination Conference in writing a letter to those women who have been invited to participate in the forthcoming Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.

There is widespread dismay among many Catholic women that, while this year members of the laity are officially permitted to vote in the Synod and two religious brothers have been invited as full voting members, women are excluded from such full participation but will remain observers and onlookers. The letter asks women observers in the Synod to use their voices to protest against this discrimination, on behalf of all women whom they represent.

The Italian text of the letter is on the Donne per la Chiesa website. We have translated it into English below. Please circulate it widely among your networks and groups.

Image by Giulia d’Anna Luppo

Dear Sisters,

We are delighted to learn of your participation in the next Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. We are happy that the Synod assembly will be enriched by your experience and sensitivity, and we welcome the fact that you will have the opportunity to participate in small groups and bring your voices to the work of the Synod. However, we are bitterly disappointed to note that that the new rules of the Synod, while allowing for the possibility of lay people voting (establishing what happened in the last Synod on the Family when a religious brother voted), do not extend this possibility to women, not even women religious.

We believe that this is yet another missed opportunity, for women and for all the Church, and that is why we are using all the means available to us to advance this cause. We ask above all that you promote the right of Catholic women to vote in the halls of the Synod.

The apostolic exhortation Episcopalis Communio provides for the possibility that the final document will become magisterial, with the express approval of the Pope, and this makes it all the more crucial that women can vote. Your voice will find a hearing in that forum and for this reason we ask you to use it also for us, for all we women who are watching you, because it is unthinkable that in 2018 women are still banished from the decision-making process.

We are living in a time in which the Church is called to a profound conversion, to overcome the great evil of clericalism denounced by Pope Francis (cf. paragraph 2 of the Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God). It is up to us women to have the courage to do everything we can to play our part, strengthened by the dignity of our baptism, as stated in the Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio:

Thanks to the Synod of Bishops, it will appear ever more clearly that, in the Church of Christ, there exists a profound communion between the pastors and the faithful, since every ordained ministry is of the baptized among the baptized, constituted by God to feed his flock, and between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff. The Pope is ‘a Bishop among the Bishops, called at the same time – as Successor of the Apostle Peter – to guide the Church of Rome which presides in love over all the Churches.’ This prevents any individual from existing without the other. (No. 10)

Trusting in your attention, we assure you of our prayers and our concrete support. We know that you will be in Rome for a long period of work and in service to the Church and we want you to know that you can rely on us.

In the hope that this letter is just the beginning of a dialogue among sisters,

We salute you in Christ,

[This letter was written by Catholic Women Speak, Donne per la Chiesa and Women’s Ordination Conference on 26th September, memorial of saints and martyrs Cosmas and Damian]