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WOMEN

Italy begins autopsies of 26 drowned migrant girls

Italian pathologists began post-mortem examinations Wednesday of 26 migrant girls found dead at sea, as Nigeria called for an international inquiry into their deaths.

Italy begins autopsies of 26 drowned migrant girls
Photo: Carlo Hermann/AFP

As authorities began the grim task, the bodies of five victims of another Mediterranean tragedy were brought to shore in Pozzallo in Sicily.

The Nigerian foreign ministry described the fate of the young female victims – believed to be aged between 14 and 18 years old – as “a monumental loss and a sad moment for our country”.

The bodies of the victims were brought on a Spanish ship to Italy on Sunday, where the authorities are looking into how they died.

The post-mortems, which are being carried out in Salerno in southern Italy, did not immediately reveal any serious wounds, such as lacerations caused by engine blades, the prosecutor's office told local media.

But it is hoped the autopsies will be able to ascertain whether the girls were abused during the journey, and better determine their ages.

Italian investigators have said there is no evidence yet that they were victims of sex trafficking.

According to the UN, 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving here are already in the clutches of pimps, or quickly fall into their traps.

According to Italy's interior ministry, more than 111,700 people have reached the country by sea in the first 10 months of 2017, 30 percent down on the previous year.

Despite the drop, traffickers are still sending migrant boats out into the Mediterranean: the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday that more than 2,560 migrants had been saved over four days.

In all, 2,839 people have died while attempting the crossing so far this year, it said.

WOMEN

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.

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