Are these the two women Pope Francis will appoint to the Dicastery of Bishops?

Pope Francis greets a woman Oct 1 2014 Credit Bohumil Petrik CNA Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

The two new female members of the Dicastery of Bishops are likely two religious sisters already well-known in the Vatican, a source has told Catholic News Agency.

Pope Francis announced that he would soon appoint two women among the members of the Dicastery for Bishops in an interview with Reuters.

Up until now, members of the dicastery were rarely non-bishops, and certainly never women, even if they are as experienced as the two likely to be announced. 

The members of the dicastery assist in choosing bishops for the dioceses. They analyze position papers, called ponenze, providing an opinion on candidates.

The view that only a bishop could provide such an analysis regarding a future bishop has been held for several reasons. First, there is a theological reason: bishops receive the same ordination as new bishops and, therefore, the same powers. Secondly, there is also a practical reason: only a bishop can know the challenges of a bishop's work.

With the reform of the Curia, however, a mandate is given by canonical mission and no longer by ordination. In other words, positions are to be appointed by competence.

A Vatican source told CNA that the two women most likely appointed to the department of bishops are Sister Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati and Sister Mary Melone.

Sister Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati, 74, served as undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from 2011 to 2018. She was the second sister to take up this post, after the pioneer Enrica Rosanna, who was number three in the dicastery for religious people from 2004 to 2011.

Currently, another female undersecretary is serving in the dicastery: Sister Carmen Ros Nortes, who has been number three since February 2018, after having worked in the dicastery since 1992. She could also be a likely candidate — even if the rumors consider Sister Spezzati to be the more likely appointment.

The other woman expected by insiders to become a member of the department of bishops is Sister Maria Domenica Melone, known as Sister Mary Melone. A Franciscan, Melone, 58, was the first female rector of a pontifical university, leading the Pontifical Antonian University from 2014 to 2019.

On July 16, 2014, she was appointed by Pope Francis as a consultant to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. 

She is one of the six women nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the new Study Commission on the women's diaconate.

On July 15, 2019, she was elected superior general of the Franciscan Sisters Angeline for the six years 2019-2025, and for this reason, she resigned as rector.

She is a prolific writer who wrote, in 2019, a paper on the role of women in the Church.

If the rumors are confirmed, they will be included in the dicastery that helps the Pope choose bishops around the world, except in mission areas, as those are instead under the jurisdiction of the Dicastery for Evangelization.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.