Pope Francis has appointed six women including former Labour minister Ruth Kelly to the Council for the Economy which oversees Vatican finances.
The women also include Leslie Ferrar, former treasurer to the Prince of Wales.
She will take up her new role on September 17.
Ms Kelly, a memer of Opus Dei, served in the Labor Government between 2004-2008 as the Secretary of State for Education and then joined HSBC Global Asset Management as Global Head of Client Strategy.
Pope Francis set up the Council for the Economy in 2014. It is currently headed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx. The council sets policy guidelines for the Secretariat for the Economy that Pope Francis established in the same year.
The Council is comprised of eight cardinals or bishops and seven lay people with strong professional financial experience.
Anthony McClaran, vice chancellor of St Mary’s, said: “To be appointed as a member of the Council for the Economy in the Vatican is a huge honour and I’m sure that someone of Ruth’s experience and background will be a major asset to the Council in its important work.
“Ruth leaves St Mary’s at the end of August and we would like to offer our good wishes for the future and thank her for the very considerable contribution she has made to St Mary’s.”
Ms Ferrar, a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, was treasurer to the Prince of Wales, from January 2015 until July 2017. She was educated at Harvard Business Scvhool and the University of Durham. On leaving the Royal Household she has taken on a number of non-executive and trustee roles.
The council is divided between lay members and bishops. The appointments represent the most senior roles for women in the Catholic Church to date. Pope Francis has made it a personal commitment to enhance the roles of women.
The appointments include Cardinals Péter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest; Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo; Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Québec; Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark; Cardinal Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm and Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of L'Aquila. The lay members are Professor Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof, Dr Eva Castillo Sanz, Dr Leslie Jane Ferrar, Marija Kolak, Dr Alberto Minali, Dr María Concepción Osákar Garaicoechea and Ms Kelly .
Dr Kreuter-Kirchhof of Germany studied law at the University of Heidelberg, Genf and Tubingen and since 2016 has been professor of German and foreign public law, international and European law in the faculty of jurisprudence at Heinrich-Heine University, Dusseldorf. She also heads the Hildegaris Association, a movement of Catholic women in Germany supporting female students in need.
Ms Kolak of Germany has held a variety of senior positions with the Berliner Volksbank. She took the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School, Boston USA. She is presently President of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken, Berlin. She is married, with three children.
Ms Garaicoechea of Navarra, Spain, is the founding partner of the Azora Group and president of the board of Azora Capital and Azora Gestion, SGIIC. Azora is an independent investment manager based in Spain, specialising on real assets and energy. She is also a trustee of the ICO Foundation (Official credit Institute), member of the governing board of the Association of Management Progress and a member of the advisory board of the think tank Institucion Futuro. Previously vice president of Santander Central Hispanico Activos Immobiliarios and president of Banif Immobiliaria as well as President of INVERCO, the Association of Collective Investment Institutions and Pension Funds, as well as a member of the board of Banca Civica. She has a degree in law from the University Autonoma de Madrid, an MBA from IE and PDG IESE from the University of Navarra. She is married with two daughters.
Ms Sanz of Spain is on the board of Bankia SA, Zardoya Otis SA and the board of trustees of Fundación Comillas-ICAI and Fundación Entreculturas. She previously served on the boards of Telefónica, SA, Telefónica Deutschland Holding, AG, Fundación Telefónica, Telefónica Europe and numerous other senior posts in the industry as well as a director of Merrill Lynch Private Banking for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and president of Merrill Lynch Spain and Portugal.
Mr Minali, from Verona, has held the position of director general and chief investment financial officer of the Gruppo Generali and chief investment officer of the Eurizon Group. He is former chief executive of the Cattolica Assicurazioni Group.