An insert titled "donne, chiesa, mondo," (women, church, world), is seen in a copy of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano during a news conference at the Vatican May 30. Starting May 31, the Italian daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano will publish an insert intended for women in its issue published on the last Thursday of every month. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has launched a monthly insert dedicated to women, aiming to bring greater attention to their important but sometimes neglected role in the church.

The glossy four-page color supplement, which debuted May 31 to mark the end of the month dedicated to Mary, is called “Women, church, world,” and will run the last Thursday of every month.

The idea was proposed by female journalists at the Vatican paper as a way to “widen the coverage of the newspaper of the Holy See” by including more articles on women and the church, the newspaper said.

The front page will be dedicated to religious or laywomen who play a critical role in the church, yet whose contribution “is still hidden,” the paper said.

In particular, L’Osservatore said, highlighting the work of about 740,000 women religious around the world — compared with only 460,000 priests and men religious — “will also help amend prejudices and preconceived notions about the Catholic Church and its attitude toward women.”

The monthly insert will cover issues dealing with “life and the condition of women, without neglecting ‘hot button’ issues,” such as “procreation, access to culture and emancipation,” the Vatican newspaper said. Like the main newspaper, it will include articles written by non-Catholic authors.

Other regular features will include articles about women’s spirituality, issues relating to religious life and reviews of new books and movies.

The May 31 edition featured a front-page interview with Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement, and a color cartoon starring “Suor Ultima” or Sister Last, drawn by an accomplished illustrator whose repertoire for other outlets includes somewhat risque panels featuring scantily clad women.

The Sister Last comic shows a hard-at-work nun peeling potatoes, teaching and doing laundry, as she thinks how lucky she is to have no husband to care for. After an off-scene voice calls out that Father Luigi has another task for her, the smiling nun remarks, “There are worse things than husbands.”

Other articles describe efforts by religious women to fight human trafficking; the recent discovery that a well-known 18th-century book on spirituality, formerly attributed to a Jesuit priest, was really written by a nun; and an in-depth reflection on St. Joan of Arc.

— By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service