Female staff increases at Vatican, but women are still minority

Flaminia Giovanelli, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, poses outside the headquarters of the council in 2010. Her appointment marked the first time in more than 20 years a woman has served as undersecretary of a pontifical council. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Flaminia Giovanelli, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, poses outside the headquarters of the council in 2010. Her appointment marked the first time in more than 20 years a woman has served as undersecretary of a pontifical council. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Laura Ieraci Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The number of women working for Vatican City State has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, while the number of women in leadership positions in the Roman Curia remains low, with only two women serving as undersecretaries.

Gudrun Sailer, a journalist at Vatican Radio, conducted a study of the Vatican employment situation and published the results March 5 in preparation for the celebration March 8 of International Women’s Day.

According to Sailer, 371 women were employed by the office governing the city state in 2014, up from 194 in 2004. Most work in service jobs and at the Vatican supermarket, post office or museums.

Sailer’s research also includes women working for the Holy See, which includes the Roman Curia and organizations such as Vatican Radio. The number of women employed by the Holy See in 2014 was 391, up from 288 three years earlier. Among them, 41 percent had university degrees and worked in professional positions, such as archivists, historians, journalists and department heads.

The increase does not come close to balancing the scales in male-female employment within the Vatican walls: The percentage of women employed in the office governing the Vatican City State is now 19 percent; the percentage of female staff at the Holy See is 18 percent.

Currently, the highest-ranking women in the Curia are undersecretaries: Flaminia Giovanelli works at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and Sister Nicoletta Spezzati, a member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, works at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The first woman to hold a Curial leadership position was Rosemary Goldie, an Australian laywoman, whom Blessed Paul VI named vice secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1967.

Anna Pezzoli was the first woman to be employed by the Vatican, Sailer reported. Hired in 1915, Pezzoli worked in the “floreria apostolica,” which furnishes and decorates the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican audience hall, St. Peter’s Square and the papal basilicas. By 1929, women were employed in a variety of professional academic positions, particularly at the Vatican library. However, it was not until after the Second Vatican Council that women were employed throughout the Vatican and the Holy See.

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