At the upcoming synod: Women experts and a Jewish guest

VATICAN CITY — The buzz at the Vatican is that Pope Benedict XVI’s choice of experts to serve at the Oct. 5-26 world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God definitely will include women scholars; probably four of about 40 experts. The official list of papal appointees should be published in early September.

And, the rumor mill says, alongside the “fraternal delegates” from other Christian churches and communities, Pope Benedict will invite a Jewish scholar as a “guest,” highlighting the fact that Christians and Jews share the first part of the Bible, although they interpret parts of it differently.

Until the list comes out, synod officials are likely to continue receiving postcards encouraging them to make sure women’s voices are heard in the synod hall.

There were no women among the 32 experts appointed by the pope to the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. For the 2001 synod on religious life, Salesian Sister Enrica Rosanna was the lone female among 16 experts. (In 2004, Pope John Paul II named her undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.)

However, women’s voices consistently have been heard in the synod hall. Unlike the experts who serve as resources to the synod officers and to the bishops and priests who are voting members of the body, the synod observers are invited to address the entire assembly. At the 2005 synod, half of the two dozen observers were women. And both the experts and observers participate in the synod’s small working groups, which is where the propositions to be presented to the pope are drafted.

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