ROME: "Powerful vested interests" within the Catholic church will be challenged at a conference in Rome as calls grow for women to be given positions of authority and influence in the church, a media report said on Monday.
In a sign that a new assertive mood around women's rights has reached the Vatican, the Voices of Faith gathering will on Thursday hear demands for bold steps towards gender equality within the male-dominated church, the Guardian report said.
Meanwhile a manifesto of women for the church, which calls for women's roles that "are coherent with our competences and capacities", is circulating on social media. It says: "As adult women, we experience daily the subordinate role of women in the church."
The rallying cry comes days after a magazine article exposed the exploitation of nuns at the Vatican.
Headlined "the (nearly) free work of nuns", the article revealed dire economic conditions experienced by many nuns, alongside resentment about the low value placed on their vocations compared with men's.
Women in religious orders work long hours cooking, cleaning and serving the cardinals, bishops and officials who run the church, it claimed. With nominal or no pay, and no contracts of employment, the nuns are barely acknowledged by the men whose needs they provide for.
Several nuns spoke anonymously to the magazine.
"In the eyes of Jesus, we are all children of God, but in their concrete life some nuns do not live this, and they experience great confusion and discomfort," said one.
Nuns were "rarely invited to sit at the table they serve", she added.
Only a handful of women hold senior positions in the Vatican hierarchy, including Barbara Jatta, who in 2016 became the first woman to head its museums, the Guardian reported.
The exploitation of nuns is likely to be raised at this week's Rome conference, whose theme is "Why Women Matter".
In previous years, the annual conference has been held at the Vatican, but the organisers switched venues last month after the Holy See refused to give approval to Mary McAleese, a former President of Ireland, and two other speakers.
No reasons were given for the refusal.
The Pope has been invited to the conference, along with several cardinals.