In an interview with the Italian daily “ “Il Messaggero”, the director of the German language programming for Vatican Radio, Jesuit Father Eberhard von Gemminger, said he hopes future popes will be elected by a College of Cardinals in which “at least half” of the members are women.
“Why not dream that sixty illustrious women could elect the Pope? I would be happy to see sixty male and sixty female cardinals in the Sistine Chapel,” the German Jesuit said in reference to the total number of permitted cardinal-electors.
Father Von Gemminger said he thought it was “improbable that the Vatican would immediately open” the doors to women cardinals, but he added, “perhaps it will happen in ten years, since the change in mentality will come, even if slowly.”
The German Jesuit argued that throughout history it has not been necessary to be a priest in order to be named a cardinal. Therefore, “Why not think that in the future there will be women cardinals?” he asked.
In the past centuries, members of the laity were eligible to become cardinals but current Church law stipulates that cardinals must be priests or bishops.
Pope John Paul II named several priests to the College of Cardinals, including Dominican theologian Father Ives Congar, Jesuits Father Henri de Lubac and Father Avery Dulles, and Father Hans Urs Von Baltazar, all of whom were above the age of 80 and thus ineligible to vote.
The College of Cardinals is currently made up of 183 members, of which 105 are cardinal-electors.