papa franjo.jpg

Images of women breaking a taboo of the Catholic Church

It's part of a groundbreaking campaign by feminist photographer Giulia Bianchi, who for the past five years has researched underground Roman Catholic female priests flouting the ban on women in the clergy.

Her journey has rekindled her faith and prompted her to study theology and travel to Israel to investigate early Christianity, when women allegedly were involved in ministry.

"They remind me of suffragettes," the 38-year-old artist says of modern-day female Catholic priests, speaking in an interview with dpa. "They represent a form of feminism that is inclusive, egalitarian and compassionate," she adds.

Bianchi has won permission from the Rome municipality to put up 100 street posters with her photographs of 10 women priests. Announcing A Jubilee for Women Priests, they include slogans such as "Some women disobey" and quotes from female Catholic saints.

Featured priests are members of a global movement comprising about 200 women, including 10 female bishops, who follow Catholic liturgy, with only a few changes: for example, they refer to God as "Holy Father and Mother" or "Holy One," rather than "Holy Father."

Bianchi, who was born in Italy but trained in the United States, was introduced to this world by Diane Dougherty, a former nun from Georgia who is now celebrating Mass for fellow Catholic outcasts such as gays, divorcees and transgender people.

Since that encounter in 2012, Bianchi has met more than 70 women priests, mostly from the US but also from Colombia, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Italy and France. She spent several days with each one, interviewing and photographing at home and with their parishioners.

"I am not against the church: with these pictures, I want to open a dialogue, and show a forbidden reality," she says.

Her campaign is being unveiled two weeks after Pope Francis reopened the debate on whether women can become deacons, who are people who perform some priestly functions but are not fully fledged priests. He promised to set up a committee on the matter.

"I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point," the pontiff said on May 12, while meeting members of an international nuns' organization at the Vatican.

The diaconate, currently restricted to men, can either be a stepping stone to full priesthood, or just a way to serve your parish more intensively. In the latter case, married people can be admitted to the role.

"What the pope said is historic," Bianchi said, recalling while under John Paul II the Vatican had ruled out any reforms "from now till eternity," Francis, "in his own innocent way, is saying: let's reopen the door, let's talk a little more about this."

Bianchi heaped more praise on Francis, describing him as a man with "a real passion for the others," but said she was afraid of compromise solutions that may not offer women full equality within the church.

Early signs are not encouraging: a day after Francis made his breakthrough announcement, one of his favourite theologians, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper that securing consensus for female deacons would be "no easy thing."

Furthermore, there has been no news on when the panel promised by the pope will actually be set up.

But for Bianchi, opening up the ranks of Catholic clergy would be a way of healing a centuries-old injustice.

"It's not just an issue of equality. It's about breaking with this established idea from the Middle Ages that women cannot represent the divine. Telling a believer that they cannot represent the divine is the most degrading thing."

Related stories

Latest news

Messi's last minute penalty saves Barcelona from shock draw

Barcelona beat Leganes 2-1 with a last minute penalty from Lionel Messi in the Spanish first division on Sunday.

At least 30 injured after explosion in Bogota

A explosion in the Macarena area of Bogota injured at least 30 people on Sunday, many of them police officers who were guarding a bull running through the streets of the Colombian capital.

Vojvodina institutions hold conference on Bunjevci's non-Croat ethnic background

There are around 16,000 members of the Bunjevci community in Vojvodina who deny their Croat ethnic background. They are represented by the Bunjevci National Council which enjoys the support of state authorities, and, since the change of government in Vojvodina, of the provincial authorities as well.

SpaceX rocket blasts off from historic launch pad en route to ISS

A commercial rocket built by SpaceX is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with a load of research equipment, cargo and supplies, NASA said Sunday.

Defence deals worth 1.2 billion dollars announced at key UAE show

Deals worth nearly 4.4 billion dirhams (1.2 billion dollars) were reached at a major defence show that opened Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an official said.

Thousands protest in Malta against controversial press law reforms

Thousands of people attended a demonstration in Malta on Sunday, answering a call by the main opposition party to protest against what it described as a threat to democracy and freedom of expression.

London's mayor calls for Trump's state visit to be cancelled

US President Donald Trump should be denied a state visit to Britain due to his "cruel and shameful" immigration policies, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Sunday.

'Now more than ever': US scientists gird for confrontation with Trump

Normally any annual gathering of American scientists is relatively non-political. But, with Donald Trump in the White House, things are different at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Many researchers are worried about their future and are urging colleagues to protest - and remain vigilant.

Int'l conference on post-war monuments in post-communist Europe held in Zagreb

The event was organised by the Zagreb-based association SF:ius in cooperation with the Croatian chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Serbians wouldn't go to war for Kosovo - poll

A majority of citizens in Serbia wouldn't go to war to claim back Kosovo, shows a survey conducted by the Serbian nongovernmental organisation "Belgrade Centre for Security Policy".

Grabar-Kitarovic, Lavrov find solution to air pollution caused by Bosanski Brod oil refinery

Croatia and Russia have found a solution for the problem of air pollution caused by a Russian-owned oil refinery in Bosanski Brod, northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been poisoning residents of Slavonski Brod, a town across the Sava River in Croatia, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in Munich on Sunday.

Istria border police discover 20 migrants in van

During routine border control, police in the northern Croatian Adriatic region of Istria on Saturday discovered 20 migrants in a van driven by a Croatian national, the Ministry of the Interior said.