Is the Vatican finally stepping into the 21st Century, hastened by the election in March of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis?
One indicator of the looming major changes in the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Francis's helm is the possible appointment of more women in key Vatican posts. Their appointment is in response to a recommendation from a 9-man panel made up mostly of cardinals and established by the pope two weeks ago. The permanent advisory panel is headed by Honduras Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga.
Pope Francis, in his general audience on April 3, pointed out that women were the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection. "The apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the rise Christ, not the women however," he was quoted as saying.
One move in that direction is the hiring of a women's supplement in the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, of a woman as the paper's English language editor. It would also have several female columnists.
Ahead of the appointment of more females, Sister Nicla Spezzati has been serving as undersecretary of the congregation that deals with nuns and religious while Flaminia Giovanelli, a laywoman, is the undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The administrator of St Peter's Basilica is also a woman - Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella.
The move to bring in more female writers at L"Osservatore Romano is in response to a suggestion by 2012 by Italian journalist and historian Lucetta Scaraffia which if it has been implemented immediately could have averted the cover-ups of pedophile scandals that involved Catholic clergy.
However, the pope had some conflicts with American nuns last week when he backed a Vatican crackdown on a major group of U.S. sisters found guilty of promoting radical feminism and moving away from the Vatican's fixed doctrine on same-sex marriage and abortion.
During the conclave, some women protesters released pink smoke as a symbol of their demand for more female representation in Vatican.