Pope Francis has appointed a woman as an undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops for the first time, a post that brings voting rights in a body dealing with some of the most controversial issues facing the Catholic Church.
Nathalie Becquart, 52 years old and from France, has been a "consultant" since 2019 to the synod, the bishops' body responsible for studying major questions of doctrine.
The appointment signals the pontiff's desire "for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church", said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.
"During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased. With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened," he added.
The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.
A special synod on the Amazon in October 2019 saw female "auditors" invited to the assembly. None could vote, despite having asked to be able to do so.
The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church. The next general assembly of the synod in 2022 will be devoted to this theme.
Becquart has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order, according to the website Vatican News.
Pope Francis named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.