By Carmen Elena Villa
SYDNEY, MARCH 3, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Rosemary Goldie, the first woman to occupy an executive post in the Holy See, died Saturday in Sydney.
Paul VI called her “our collaborator.” John XXIII affectionately named her the “little one” (“la piccinina,”) because of her stature. Cardinal Albino Luciani (who later became John Paul I) defended her energetically faced to criticisms by some women’s organizations.
John Paul II visited her while her office was in the Vatican’s St. Calixtus Palace and Benedict XVI also saw her during his trip to Sydney in 2008.
Rosemary Goldie worked closely with many in the Vatican, having been appointed in 1967 as undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, a post she held for almost a decade.
She died at age 94 in a residence for the elderly run by the community of the Little Sisters of the Poor, located in Sydney’s Randwick sector.
Speaking to ZENIT, the current undersecretary for the laity council, Guzman Carriquiry, described her as “one of the protagonists of the great contemporary historic current of the promotion of the laity in the Church.”
“She accompanied the crucial decades on the topic of the dignity and responsibility of the lay faithful in the Church,” Carriquiry stated.
Serving the Church
Though Goldie was born in Manley, Australia, on Feb. 1, 1916, she lived the greater portion of her life in Rome, from 1952 to 2002.
As a young woman she studied in the University of Sydney and, thanks to a scholarship from the French government, continued her studies at the University of Paris. Among her professors was the famous philosopher Jacques Maritain. Through him, Goldie came into contact with Grail, an organization of Catholic lay women, and with Pax Romana, an international federation of Catholic intellectuals.
After World War II, Goldie returned to Australia where she took other university courses and promoted Grail and Pax Romana at the local level. Eventually she returned to Paris to study for a doctorate in French literature.
Goldie then went to Fribourg, southern Germany, as an employee of Pax Romana. In October of 1952 she traveled to Rome to become part of the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Lay Apostolate (COPECIAL).
As she worked to prepare the Second World Congress of the Lay Apostolate, which was held in Rome in 1957, she came into contact with persons such as Joseph Cardjin, who was later appointed a cardinal, and with the then Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, who years later became Pope Paul VI.
In 1959, when Pope John XXIII announced the Second Vatican Council, the permanent committee was requested to help in the preparation.
Goldie was one of the first women who were chosen to collaborate as auditors in this council — an unprecedented move in Church history which had before only admitted men.
In 1967, as the Australian worked to organize the third congress of the lay apostolate, her committee was replaced by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Goldie was appointed as one of the two undersecretaries.
On leaving her post in 1976, she went on to teach pastoral theology at the Pontifical Lateran University.
Carriquiry recalled the five years that he collaborated with Goldie: “I appreciated not only her faithful Christian witness but her tireless service in the Roman Curia.
“She was very committed to the work of this new organism. She came in early in the morning to work in our office and left late. This was not her only work as she had her home where she always gave her best.”
The president of the Australian episcopal conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, recalled her courage: “At a time when the laity, particularly lay women, had to face struggles to have a voice in the affairs of the Church, Rosemary Goldie made history, being the first woman appointed as official in the Vatican Curia.”
After her retirement, Goldie continued working as thesis director for some of her students. In 1998 she published the book “From a Roman Window,” and prepared the edition of an autobiography of her mother, the writer Dulcie Deamer.
On returning to her country, she decided to live in the residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, where her mother had died 30 years before. From there she continued to serve the Holy See as a consultor of the laity council.
Carriquiry stated, “We know how at the end of the council there were so many crises and turbulence in several organizations of the associated laity.”
He pointed out that Goldie “had very serene and balanced judgment, always maintaining ecclesial communion in a strong and tireless manner.”
“When I say tireless,” Carriquiry continued, “I repeat, because truly her whole life was concentrated in a very singular and absorbing way on the work she carried out through this organism of the Holy See.”