Pope Francis has for the first time named three women to serve as members of the Vatican committee that vets bishop nominations.
Italian sister Raffaella Petrini, French sister Yvonne Reungoat and laywoman Maria Lia Zervino will join the previously all-male office, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
The appointments are the latest in a series of significant moves allowing women more say in Catholic Church governance.
The dicastery oversees the work of most of the church’s 5,300 bishops, who run dioceses around the world. Its members — including cardinals, bishops and now women — meet periodically to evaluate new bishops who are proposed by Vatican ambassadors.
The pope still has the final say despite the consultation and vetting process.
Petrini was the first woman to be appointed as the secretary-general of the Vatican City State, in charge of museums and other administrative parts of the territory.
Sister Reungoat previously served as superior general of the Daughters of Mary the Helper, a religious order also known as the Salesian Sisters.
Maria Lia Zervino meanwhile is president of a Catholic women’s umbrella group, the World Union of Female Catholic Organisations.
Church doctrine still reserves the priesthood for men, and women have often complained they have a second-class status to the all-male clerical hierarchy of the Holy See.
Most of the Vatican’s work in running schools, hospitals, while passing on the faith is done by women.