Two weeks ahead of Vocations Sunday, which takes place on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Congregation of Bishops has released a statement announcing a conference on the theme.

The symposium, entitled “Towards a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood”, is to take place in the Vatican City between 17 and 22 February next year and will discuss issues such as the role of women, the priesthood and multiculturalism.

The three-day event is “open to all but especially for Bishops, and for all those, men and women, who are interested in theology to deepen their understanding of vocations and the importance of communion between the different vocations in the Church”.

The symposium is to put renewed focus on the questions surrounding the Church in the modern era, particularly the status of women and LGBT+ people: “This rapport is not to be taken for granted in our time, because it entails pastoral readjustments and it involves ecumenical questions not to be ignored, as well as the cultural movements that question the place of women in the Church.”

Discussion will address “tensions on the ground due to divergent pastoral visions, challenges posed by multiculturalism and migrations, not to mention the ideologies that condition the witness of the baptised and the exercise of priestly ministry in secularised communities”.

This follows Pope Francis’ appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart as the first female undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops, which was described as signalling the Pope’s desire to increase the participation of women in the Church. It also comes after his rejection of those who oppose the Second Vatican Council of 1962, which prioritised greater openness and an improved relationship between lay congregation and clergy.

“Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the council, or you interpret it in your own way – according to your desire – [and] you do not stand with the Church,” the Pope told those present at the National Catechetical Office of Italian Bishops’ Conference in January.

The statement says: “This expected growth of a Synodal Church certainly corresponds to the orientations of the Second Ecumenical Council, which are being implemented with a more profound theological and pastoral comprehension.”

The statement also says: “A theological symposium does not claim to offer practical solutions to all the pastoral and missionary problems of the Church, but it can help us deepen the foundations of the church’s mission. Insight from Divine Revelation on the priesthood of Christ and the participation of the Church in this priesthood is a crucial question for our time.”