Pope names more women than ever to Synod of Bishops on Bible

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VATICAN CITY -- Choosing men and women from every part of the world and from a wide variety of professional spheres, Pope Benedict XVI nominated 32 voting members, 41 experts and 37 observers for the upcoming world Synod of Bishops.

The nomination of six female scholars as experts and of 19 women as observers will give the Oct. 5-26 Synod of Bishops on the Bible the largest bloc of women ever participating in a Catholic synod.

The list of papal appointments to the synod was published Sept. 6 by the Vatican.

The 32 clerics Pope Benedict named as full members of the synod will join about 180 bishops who were elected by their national bishops' conferences, 10 priests elected by the Union of Superiors General and about two dozen cardinals and archbishops, heads of Vatican congregations and councils, who automatically are members of the synod.

The papal nominees include 18 cardinals, 12 of whom head dioceses. Among them are Cardinals Marc Ouellet of Quebec, George Pell of Sydney, Australia, and Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.

The bishops the pope nominated come from Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia. They include Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau.

Pope Benedict also named as full synod members: Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, head of the personal prelature of Opus Dei; Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits; and Father Julian Carron, president of the Communion and Liberation movement.

The voting members of the synod can address the entire gathering, and they determine the propositions to be presented to the pope at the end of the gathering.

The 41 experts will serve as resource people for the synod members as they discuss the importance of the Scriptures in the life of the church, look at the Bible's role in Catholic prayer and liturgy, evaluate its role in ecumenical and interreligious relations, and discuss ways to improve biblical literacy at every level of the church.

The six women named experts are:

-- Sister Sara Butler, a professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. A member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, Sister Butler was one of two women Pope John Paul II named to the International Theological Commission in 2004.

-- Spanish Sister Nuria Calduch-Benages, a professor of the biblical theology of the Old Testament at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

-- Bruna Costacurta, an Italian professor of Old Testament theology at the Gregorian.

-- Marguerite Lena, a professor of philosophy in Paris and director of theological formation for young adults at Paris' St. Francis Xavier Community.

-- Sister Mary Jerome Obiorah, a member of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and professor of sacred Scripture at the University of Nigeria and at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria.

-- Trappist Sister Germana Strola, a member of the monastery at Vitorchiano, Italy.

Pope Benedict also named 19 women to be among the 37 synod observers; the observers attend all synod sessions, participate in the synod working groups and are given an opportunity to address the entire synod assembly.

Like their male counterparts, most of the women observers are professors or leaders of religious orders, Bible-based Catholic lay movements or large Catholic organizations.

As of Sept. 8 the Vatican had not published the names of the "fraternal delegates," the representatives of other Christian churches and communities who attend the synods and are given an opportunity to address the assembly.

A Vatican official said about 15 fraternal delegates would attend; in addition, he said, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa, Israel, would be a special guest and lead a discussion for synod members on the Jewish interpretation of the Scriptures.

Editor's Note: The full list of nominations is posted online in Italian at:

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