Ambassador Chiara Porro: ‘Doing’ sends the strongest message on female leadership at the Vatican

12 November 2020
Australia's Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro. Image: Supplied.


Catholic Outlook continues a series of interviews with Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro.


Asked why Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro promoted leadership opportunities for girls on International Day of the Girl on her social media account @AusAmbHolySee she says “There is no way we can function efficiently by excluding 50% of the population.”

“We need different perspectives, not just from women, but from other groups that are often excluded. You enrich everything you do as a result.”

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At 36, Ambassador Porro already has a list of noteworthy achievements. She is Australia’s second female and youngest Ambassador to the Holy See. Prior to that she helped set up a hospital in Sierra Leone through the Ebola crisis, and worked in New Caledonia for the 2018 referendum as Deputy Consul General, helping to set up a new consulate in Tahiti.

She references a statement and video released in October by Pope Francis on women in leadership roles in the Church.

“There is a huge push to include more senior women in the Curia” Ambassador Porro notes.

“Some people are pushing for female priests although it’s not for me to say anything on that. I do think women have a role in having their voices heard and contributing to leadership decisions. I think Pope Francis feels very strongly about that as well” she says.

She sees leadership roles for laywomen have picked up in momentum. At the same time, she would like to see the role that religious sisters play in the church get more recognition. It is clear from speaking with Ambassador Porro the high regard she holds for female Religious and the work they do. She has been working closely with the International Union of Superiors General in Rome.

“Pat Murray (Sr Patricia Murray, ibvm) their Executive Secretary is so dynamic and is pushing the sisters to speak out as they are not used to being in the limelight” she explains.

“They do so much good work at the coalface and it should be highlighted more. That’s where I think efforts should be – in demonstrating the contribution and value of women to the Catholic Church. I really hope the Plenary Council highlights that as well.”

Ambassador Chiara Porro with two Australian Carmelite Sisters in Tuscany. Image: Supplied.


As a new and female ambassador she is feeling very supported within the Vatican itself. “Pope Francis himself encouraged me to join the Vatican women’s ambassador group” she said. “He told me ‘The female ambassadors here are fantastic, you should definitely work with them’.”

There are female ambassadors to the Holy See from the USA, UK, Canada, the EU, the Netherlands, Argentina and some other South American countries says Ambassador Porro.

“There are lots of very active, smart, dynamic women here which I think sends a message in itself” she says.

The diplomatic corps at the Vatican are very united and frequently work together she says. She looks forward to working with them for promoting the common good. As a new and the youngest ambassador in the Vatican, she looks forward to opportunities to learn from the other ambassadors who come from a wide range of backgrounds.

Pope Francis’ October video Women in leadership roles in the Church states:

No one has been baptised a priest or a bishop. We have all been baptised as lay people.
Lay people are protagonists of the Church.
Today, it is especially necessary to create broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.
And we must emphasise the feminine lay presence because women tend to be left aside.
We must promote the integration of women, especially where important decisions are made.
We pray that by the virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church, without falling into forms of clericalism that diminish the lay charism.


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