Pope Francis welcomes a female archbishop

by Maureen Fiedler

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Pope Francis may be getting his sea legs with this "women's reality" thing. Last month, he came out for equal pay for equal work for women, calling common gender disparities in pay a "scandal."

Now, Antonia Blumberg of The Huffington Post reports that Francis "made history" last week by welcoming a female archbishop in an official audience at the Apostolic Palace for the first time.

The archbishop is Antje Jackelén, the first woman to lead the Lutheran Church of Sweden. According to the Vatican, the two leaders focused their discussions on the need for Christian unity and concern and care for the poor of the world. Francis is reported to have called the archbishop not by her ecclesiastical title, but the "esteemed Mrs. Jackelén, esteemed sister." He also thanked her and the Swedish Lutheran Church for welcoming South American migrants who fled from dictatorships.

For her part, Jackelén talked about the struggles of Christians in the Middle East and the crisis of refugees from Africa crossing the Mediterranean. They also discussed the need to come together on the critical issue of climate change.

She said strengthening the Christian community requires "sharing the richness of traditions rather than building fences around one's own turf."

And one of those fences is the one that keeps women in the Catholic tradition from the kind of role played by Antje Jackelén. Maybe as Francis deals more and more deeply with women's reality and greets female leaders of other denominations, he will begin to rethink his opposition to women's ordination in the Catholic church.  

No, I'm not holding my breath on that. But one has to welcome glimmers of hope when they appear!

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