Pope Francis has appointed Professor Isabell Naumann ISSM, the president of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, to the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. The Commission was established in 1969 to study important doctrinal issues as an aid to the pope and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Dr Naumann’s appointment is a prestigious one, with the Commission counting some of the Church’s most pre-eminent theologians among its alumni. She has served as the first female president of the Catholic Institute of Sydney since her appointment to the role in 2018. As the country’s only ecclesiastical faculty, it can confer Pontifical degrees of the Baccalaureate, Licentiate, and Doctorate of Sacred Theology and was established in 1954 for Australia, New Zealand and Oceania.
Dr Naumann told The Catholic Weekly she was pleasantly surprised by the appointment and that it was also an honour for the Institute.
“I hope I can live up to the expectations that are connected with such an appointment for the benefit of the local Church and also to continue to foster real authentic theological education and academic work, for the Catholic Institute as well,” Dr Naumann said. “It is certainly a privilege and an honour.”
She said she did not know what topics the Commission would examine over the next five years, but expected that members would have an opportunity to provide input into what was chosen.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP warmly congratulated her on the appointment. “I have known and worked closely with Sr Isabell for more than 20 years and count her a personal friend as well as an esteemed colleague,” he said.
“She is yet another example of women’s leadership in the Church, being now not only one of the theological advisers to the Pope but the leader of the Catholic Institute of Sydney.
(She is, I think, the first woman leader of a Catholic theological institute in Australia, and the first non-cleric to head up CIS.)
A ‘world-class scholar’
“She is widely admired for her work in ecclesiology, Mariology and other areas of theology. She has worked tirelessly on the project of achieving greater collaboration between the various Catholic theologates around Australia and within Sydney.
“I am very proud to see her now a member of the ITC and congratulate her most warmly.”
University of Notre Dame Australia Professor Tracey Rowland, who served the Commission after her own appointment to it in 2014, also welcomed the news. “Sr Isabell is a great choice as the Australian appointment to the ITC,” she said.
“Not only is she a world-class scholar but her fluency in the major European languages will greatly assist her ability to interact with other members outside of the formal committee sessions.”
Commission members are appointed by the Pope for five-year terms, during which a particular theological question is studied and the results published.
The last term ended in 2019, but the new commission’s start was delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 12 new appointments bring the number of women currently serving the Commission to five including the newly chosen St Andrew Sister Josée Ngalula, a professor of dogmatic theology at the Catholic University of Congo in Kinshasa.
The body’s new members also include Robin Darling Young, Yury P. Avvakumov and Fr Etienne Emmanuel Vetö, United States, Fr Simon Francis Gaine OP, United Kingdom, Fr Edouard Adé, Burkina Faso, Fr Alberto Cozzi, Italy, Fr Marek Jagodziński, Poland, Fr Víctor Ronald La Barrera Villarreal, Colombia, Fr Jorge José Ferrer, SJ, Puerto Rico, and Sr Josée Ngalula, Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition to the new appointments, Pope Francis renewed the terms of 16 members, including German theologian Marianne Schlosser and Italian priest Msgr Piero Coda, who was named secretary general of the Commission for its new term.