Vatican dismisses reports of women cardinals

Former president Mary McAleese one of two Irish women named in media reports

The Holy See yesterday dismissed as "nonsense" weekend Irish media reports that Pope Francis might nominate two Irish women as cardinals.

Responding to reports in Irish and Irish-American media that Pope Francis might name both TCD ecumenics Prof Linda Hogan and former president Mary McAleese as cardinals at a future conclave, senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said: "This is just nonsense . . . It is simply not a realistic possibility that Pope Francis will name women cardinals for the February consistory.

“Theologically and theoretically, it is possible,” he added. “Being a cardinal is one of those roles in the church for which, theoretically, you do not have to be ordained but to move from there to suggesting the pope will name women cardinals for the next consistory is not remotely realistic.”

Since his election last March, Pope Francis has often spoken of the need to reassess the role of women in the Catholic Church.


In his ground-breaking August interview with Jesuit media, he said that “the church cannot be herself without woman”, adding that Mary “is more important than the bishops”.

In a September article, Juan Arias, a former Vatican correspondent for Spanish daily El Pais, floated the idea that one day, the pope might nominate a woman cardinal. Arias, who named no women candidates, based his speculation not only on Pope Francis's comments but also on the role of the deaconess in the early Christian church.

That article, however, prompted further speculation both in Italian and US religious media, with US Jesuit Fr James Keenan of the theology department at Boston College even using his Facebook page to solicit suggestions for the first woman cardinal. It is in that context that the names of Ms McAleese as well as Prof Hogan and the Italian minister for integration, Cecile Kyenge, emerged.

In an interview with Massachusetts' Worcester Telegram & Gazette last weekend, Mrs McAleese said the Vatican remained one of the few places where women still could not vote, saying it was deeply offensive that women "are not included in the [Vatican's] decision- making process".