Pope Francis named six women to the Vatican financial oversight body Thursday, making them the first women ever in high-level Vatican positions.
The appointees will serve in the 15-person Council for the Economy. Francis created the Council in 2014 as an international group to oversee the Vatican’s finances and set financial policy.
The appointment of so many new women is the pope’s latest move to fix the gender imbalance at the Vatican. So far, he has named women for deputy foreign minister, director of the Vatican Museums and deputy head of the Vatican Press Office, as well as an additional four women as councilors to the Synod of Bishops.
Thursday’s appointments mark the most women appointed at one time to the Vatican.
Among the new councilors is Leslie Jane Ferrar, former treasurer to Prince Charles from 2015 to 2017. She now serves in several non-executive and trustee roles. New Council member Ruth Kelly was Britain’s former secretary of state for transport and the former minister for women and equality.
The six women have backgrounds in business, banking, politics, and academia, and they are from Britain, Spain and Germany.
The Council currently faces intense economic pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vatican has had to use reserve funds and implement harsh cost-control measures.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the Council was made up of only men. One cardinal serves as coordinator, and the 14 remaining positions are split between clergy and non-clergy. Now, the non-clergy portion will include the six women newly appointed, along with one man.