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Pope Francis has revealed that he will be appointing women for the first time to a previously all-male Vatican group that aids him in choosing the world's bishops. He has also said that he wants to see more women in high-level roles within the Holy See.

The unofficially-announced change is very important since it will allow women to participate in the selection of the world's bishops, who are currently all men.

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Many women, including nuns and laywomen, have already been appointed by Francis to various Vatican positions. He appointed Sister Alessandra Smerilli, an Italian nun who works on justice and peace problems, to the number two post in the Vatican's development office in 2021.

Pope Francis has also appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French Xaviere Missionary Sister, to the position of co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, which organises significant gatherings of global bishops every few years.

Barbara Jatta, the first female director of the Vatican Museums, and Cristiane Murray, the deputy director of the Vatican Press Office, are two laywomen who now hold prominent positions at the Vatican. Francis appointed both of them.

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Any baptised Catholic, including laymen and women, are eligible to lead the majority of Vatican departments, according to a new constitution that took effect in June for the central administration of the Holy See.

The names of the women or the time of the official announcement of their appointment were not revealed by Pope Francis. The committee, which is now made up of cardinals, bishops, and priests, meets twice a month in Rome.

The 85-year-old pontiff spoke exclusively with Reuters in his Vatican apartment on July 2 about a variety of Church and world issues, including the place of women in the Vatican hierarchy.

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"I am open to giving (women) an opportunity," he said in the part of the 90-minute interview that discussed the new constitution for the central administration, known as the Curia.

He indicated that Sister Raffaella Petrini would become the highest-ranking woman in the world's smallest state in 2021 when he for the first time appointed a woman to the second post in the governorship of Vatican City.

"Two women will be appointed for the first time in the committee to elect bishops in the Congregation for Bishops," he said.

"This way, things are opening up a bit," he said.

In June, Irish-American Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, joked that with the promulgation of the new constitution, he may likely be the last cleric to head that department.

When asked whether other Vatican divisions might reasonably be led by a layperson, Francis mentioned the Apostolic Library and the department for Catholic Education and Culture. At the moment, they are led by male clergy.

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