Germany's Catholic bishops elected a woman as their general secretary for the first time on Tuesday, in a decision hailed as a "strong sign" of modernisation in the crisis-hit Church.
Theologian Beate Gilles, 50, will succeed Hans Langendoerfer on July 1 as a high-ranking official charged with implementing decisions taken by the bishops.
“This is a strong sign that the bishops are acting on their agreement to promote women into leadership positions,” said Georg Baetzing, president of the bishops’ conference.
Langendoerfer is retiring after 24 years in the role.
The council of 68 bishops are meeting via videoconference this week in a virtual spring council overshadowed by a scandal over the controversial cardinal of Cologne Rainer Maria Woelki.
Woelki, a powerful archbishop, has blocked the publication of a report about alleged sexual abuse of minors by members of his diocese, the largest in Germany.
His decision has prompted a furious reaction from victims and growing criticism from outside and inside the church.