The National Catholic Reporter and The Guardian News online report that Pope Francis has appointed six women to oversee the Vatican’s finances. Among those chosen is Ruth Kelly, the former Labour minister. This appointment puts them in the most senior roles ever given to women within the Catholic Church’s leadership.

We recall that Pope Francis had earlier pushed for more women appointments within the ranks of the Vatican. Until now, the 15-member Council for the Economy was all male. By statute, the council must include eight bishops – who are always men – and seven laypeople. That six of those lay persons are now women is a pretty big quota.

Joshua McElwee, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter said that “the important thing here is that these six women are part of a group that essentially oversees all of the financial activities of the Vatican, so obviously that’s a pretty top-level group.”

Worthy of note is that all female appointees are European and they have high-profile financial backgrounds. Leslie Ferrar, a former treasurer to Prince Charles, is the other British woman among the team; the others being Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof and Marija Kolak, both from Germany, and Maria Concepción Osácar Garaicoechea and Eva Castillo Sanz, both from Spain. The only layman on the council is Alberto Minali, a former director general at Generali, the Italian insurance company.

Pope Francis created the Council for the Economy in 2014, which McElwee says is “essentially the board of surveillance for everything financial within the Vatican, with the only person above it being Pope Francis. ”

Nonetheless, some other women who have obtained prominent positions during Pope Francis’ papacy include Barbara Jatta, who heads up the Vatican Museums, and Francesca Di Giovanni, the undersecretary of the Vatican’s secretariat of state.

Image Credit: Reuters (Ruth Kelly, the former Labour minister).