15 October 2015, The Tablet

Bishops pledge promotion of women

Germany’s Catholic bishops have launched a programme to promote women in the Church, after a new upsurge of departures in the wake of recent scandals, writes Jonathan Luxmoore.

“The German dioceses want to prepare young female talent for management positions, so the number of women in church leadership positions can increase,” the Bishops’ Conference said in a statement. “This programme will encourage and empower women to take senior jobs in church institutions, when empirical studies have shown that line structures where women and men are represented are more focused, creative and transparent.”

The statement, issued as the Synod of Bishops assembled in Rome, said the mentoring programme, involving the twinning of “experienced line persons” and “junior employees”, would be run by the Bonn-based Catholic Hildegardis Association, which has promoted women’s advancement in Germany since 1907.

It added that Germany’s Aachen, Bamberg, Cologne, Essen, Hamburg, Hildesheim, Limburg, Munich-Freising, Munster and Trier dioceses had already begun pilot projects, which would be followed in 2016 by programmes in all 27 dioceses.

“The Church is committed to increasing the proportion of women in significant leading positions – and it will evaluate the concrete measures carried out in 2018,” the statement said. “Specific regional conditions will be taken into account, and synergies created with other measures already being implemented.”

Catholics make up 29.9 per cent of Germany’s population of 82 million, according to 2014 church figures, compared to 29 per cent belonging to the Protestant Evangelical Church. However, the number of Catholics removing their names from parish and diocesan registers, which slowed during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, has increased sharply over the past two years in the wake of sexual abuse accusations and an extravagance scandal involving former Limburg bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.

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