Full Text of Pope’s Q-and-A With Women Religious

Fr Lombardi: It would be a mistake to reduce the conversation to the question of women deacons

L'Osservatore Romano

The Director of the Holy See’s Press office, Father Federico Lombardi, underlined that Pope Francis did not say Thursday in his remarks to directors of female religious orders that he intends to introduce the ordination of women and even less the ordination of women as priests.

Father Lombardi’s statement followed the Pope’s widely-reported remarks that he wants to set up a Commission to study the question of female deacons. Pope Francis’ remarks on deaconesses came during a question and answer session on Thursday with some 900 heads of female religious orders and congregations who form part of the International Union of Superiors General.

During the hour and a half long conversation about the mission and ministry of women in religious life, the Pope responded to several delicate questions, including one where he was asked what prevents the Church from including women among the permanent deacons, just like during the early Church. In his reply, the Pope said understanding about the role of female deacons in the early Church remained unclear and agreed with the sisters that it would be useful to set up a commission to study the question.

Father Lombardi described the encounter between the Pope and the female religious as a “beautiful conversation” that was very “encouraging” about women and in particular about consecrated women in the life of the Church, including their role in important positions within the dicasteries where ordination is not implied.

Referring to the Pope’s much reported remark about setting up a Commission to study the question of female deacons, Father Lombardi said this was an issue that has been talked about within the Church in the past and arises from the fact that in the early Church there were women described as deaconesses who carried out certain tasks within the Christian community.

Father Lombardi said “we need to be honest” when looking at the Pope’s remarks about being willing to set up a Commission to look again at this issue with greater clarity.

“The Pope did not say he intends to introduce the ordination of female deacons and even less did he talk about the ordination of women as priests.”  In actual fact, the Pope made clear in his preaching during the course of the Eucharistic celebration that he was not considering this (question) at all.

Father Lombardi also said it was wrong to reduce all the many important things said by the Pope during his meeting with the religious sisters to this one question.

[From Vatican Radio: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/05/13/fr_lombardi_on_pope%E2%80%99s_remarks_about_female_deacons/1229620]

Here is a ZENIT translation of the full transcription of the Pope’s q-and-a:

First Question

For a better insertion of women in the life of the Church

Pope Francis, you have said that the feminine genius is necessary in all the expressions of the life of the Church and of society, and yet women are excluded from decisional processes in the Church, especially at the highest levels, and from preaching in the Eucharist. An important impediment to the Church’s full embrace of the “feminine genius” is the connection that decisional processes and preaching have with priestly Ordination. Do you see a way to separate Ordination from leadership roles and preaching in the Eucharist, so that our Church can be more open to receive women’s genius in the very near future?

Pope Francis

There are several things we must distinguish. The question is linked to functionality; it is very much linked to functionality, whereas woman’s role goes beyond. But now I will answer the question, then we’ll speak. I’ve seen that there are other questions that go beyond. Is it true that women are excluded from the decisional processes in the Church: <they are> not excluded but the insertion of women is  very weak in the decisional processes. We must go forward. For instance – truly I don’t see a difficulty – I believe that in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it is a woman, a Religious, who runs the secretariat. Another was proposed and I appointed her, but she preferred not to accept, because she had to go elsewhere to do other works of her Congregation. We must go beyond, because for many aspects of the decisional processes Ordination isn’t necessary. In the reform of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, in connection with the dicasteries, when there is no jurisdiction that comes from Ordination — that is, pastoral jurisdiction – one doesn’t see written that it cannot be a woman, I don’t know of a dicastery head, but … For instance, for migrants: a woman could <be appointed> to the dicastery for migrants. And when there is need – now that migrants enter in a dicastery – of jurisdiction, it is up to the Prefect to give this permission. But ordinarily one can go, in the execution of the decisional process. The elaboration of decisions is very important for me: not only the execution but also the elaboration and, that is, that women, whether consecrated or lay, enter in the reflection of the process and in the discussion. Because women look at life with their eyes and we men can’t look at it like that. It’s the way of seeing a problem, of seeing anything – it’s different in a woman than it is for a man. They must be complementary, and it is important that women be in consultations.

In Buenos Aires I experienced a problem: addressing it with the Presbyterial Council – hence all men – it was well addressed; then, addressing it with a group of Religious and lay women it was greatly enriched and favoured the decision with a complementary view. It’s necessary; this is necessary! And I think we must go forward on this, then the decisional process will see to it thereafter.

Then there is the problem of preaching in the Eucharistic Celebration. There’s no problem that a woman – lay or Religious – deliver the homily in a Liturgy of the Word. There is no problem. However, in the Eucharistic Celebration there is a liturgical-dogmatic problem, because the celebration is one – the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy, is a unity – and the one who presides over it is Jesus Christ. The priest or the Bishop that presides does so in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a theological-liturgical reality. In that situation, where women are not Ordained, they cannot preside. However, this can be studied more and explained more than I have said now, very quickly and somewhat simply.

In leadership, instead, there is no problem: in this we can go forward, with prudence, but seeking solutions …

There are two temptations here, of which we must be on guard. The first is feminism: woman’s role in the Church isn’t feminism; it’s a right! It is the right of the baptized with the charisms and gifts that the Spirit has given. There is no need to fall into feminism, because this would reduce the importance of a woman. At this time, I don’t see a great danger in regard to this among women religious. I don’t see it. Perhaps once, but in general it doesn’t exist.

The other danger, which is a very strong temptation and I’ve spoken about it many times, is clericalism. And this is very strong. Let us think that today more than 60% of parishes – I don’t know about the dioceses, but only a bit less – do not have advice for economic affairs and pastoral advice. What does this mean? That such a parish and such a diocese is led with a clerical spirit, solely that of the priest, who does not act with that parrochial synodality, that diocesan synodality, which isn’t a novelty of this Pope. No! It’s in Canon Law, it is an obligation that the parish priest has to have the advice of the laity, for and with the laity, lay women and women religious for pastoral care and for economic affairs. And they don’t do this. And this is the danger of clericalism today in the Church. We must go forward and remove this danger, because the priest is a servant of the community, the Bishop is a servant of the community, but he is not the head of a firm. No! This is important.

In Latin America, for instance, clericalism is very strong, very marked. The laity does not know what to do, if they don’t ask the priest … It’s very strong. And, therefore, awareness of the role of the laity in Latin America is very hampered. Some of this was saved only in popular piety: because the protagonists were the people and the people did things as they came: and that aspect did not interest the priest so much, and some did not see with a good eye this phenomenon of popular piety. But clericalism is a negative attitude. And it is an accomplice because it is done in twos, as the tango that is danced by two … that is, the priest who wishes to clericalize the layman, laywoman, the man or woman religious, and the layman who asks as a favour to be clericalized, because it’s more comfortable. This is curious. I had this experience in Buenos Aires three or four times: a good parish priest who came and said to me “You know, I have a very good layman in the parish: he does this, he does that, he knows how to organize, attend to work, he is truly a valuable man … Shall we make him a Deacon?” That is, shall we “clericalize him?” “No! Let him remain a layman. Don’t make him a Deacon. This is important. This happens to you, so often clericalism stops you in the licit development of something.

I will ask – and perhaps I will have it reach the President [of the women religious] – the Congregation for Worship to explain well, in a profound way, what I said somewhat lightly on preaching in the Eucharistic Celebration, because I don’t have the theology and sufficient clarity to explain it now. But we must distinguish well: preaching in a Liturgy of the Word is one thing, and this can be done; something else is the Eucharistic Celebration; there is another mystery here. It’s the mystery of Christ presence and the priest or the Bishop that celebrates in persona Christi.

It’s clear for leadership … Yes I believe this can be my answer in general to the first question. Let us look at the second.

Second question

The role of consecrated women in the Church

Consecrated women already work so much with the poor and the marginalized, teaching catechesis, accompanying the sick and the dying; they distribute Communion, in many countries, they lead the common prayer in the absence of priests and in those circumstances they pronounce the homily. There is in the Church the office of the Permanent Deacon, but it is only open to men, whether married or not. What impedes the Church from including women among the Permanent Deacons, precisely as happened in the early Church? Why not constitute an official commission that can study the question? Can you give us an example of where you see the possibility of a better insertion of women and of consecrated women in the life of the Church?

Pope Francis

This question is understood in the sense of “doing”: consecrated women already work so much with the poor, they do so many things … in “doing.” And it touches the problem of the Permanent Diaconate. Someone could say that the “Permanent Deaconesses” in the life of the Church are the mothers-in-law [he laughs, they laugh].

In fact, this existed in antiquity: there was a beginning … I remember that it was a topic that interested me quite a lot when I came to Rome for meetings, and I lodged at the Domus Paolo VI; there was a good Syrian theologian there who did the critical edition and translation of the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian. And one day I asked him about this, and he explained to me that in the early times of the Church there were some “Deaconesses.” But what are these Deaconesses? Were they ordained or not? The Council of Chalcedon speaks of it (451), but it’s a bit obscure. What was the role of the Deaconesses in those times? It seems – that man said to me, who is dead, who was a good professor, wise, erudite – it seems that the role of the Deaconesses was to help in the Baptism of women, in the immersion, they baptized them, for decorum, also to do the anointing of women’s body in Baptism. And also something curious: when there was a marital judgment because the husband hit the wife and the latter went to the Bishop to lament <her situation>, the Deaconesses were in charge of seeing the bruises left on the woman’s body by the husband’s blows and inform the Bishop. This, I remember.

There are some publications on the Diaconate in the Church, but it’s not clear how it was. I think I will ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to refer studies to me on this topic, because I have answered you only on the basis of what I’ve heard from that priest, who was a an erudite and valid researcher, on the Permanent Diaconate. And, in addition, I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will do the Church good to clarify this point: I agree and I will speak about doing something of this nature.

Then you said: “We agree with you, Holy Father, who have reported many times the need for a more incisive role of women in the decisional positions in the Church.” This is clear. “Can you give us an example from whence you see the possibility of a better insertion of women and of consecrated women in the life of the Church?” I’ll say something that comes after, because I’ve seen that there is a general question. In the consultations of the Congregation for Religious, in the assemblies, consecrated women should be there. Something else: a better insertion. At the moment, concrete things don’t come to mind, but always what I said earlier: to seek the judgment of a consecrated woman, because a woman sees things with a different originality than that of men, and this enriches: be it in consultation, be it in decision-making, be it in the concreteness <of a reality>.

These works you do with the poor, the marginalized, teaching catechesis, accompanying the sick and the dying, are very “maternal” works, where the Church’s maternity can be expressed more.  But there are men who do the same, and well: consecrated men, Hospital Orders … And this is important.

Therefore, on the Diaconate, yes, I accept and it seems useful to me that a commission should clarify this well, especially in regard to the early times of the Church.

In regard to a better insertion, I repeat what I said earlier. If there is something to concretize, ask it now: on what I’ve said, is there another question that will help me to think? Forward …

Third question

The Role of the International Union of Superiors General

What role could the International Union of Superiors General have, so that it can have a word in the thought of the Church, a word that is heard, given that it bears in itself the voice of 2,000 Institutes of women religious? How is it possible that very often we are forgotten and not made participants, for instance, in the general assembly of the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, where there is talk of consecrated life? Can the Church allow herself to continue speaking of us, instead of speaking with us?

Pope Francis

Sister Teresina have patience, because there has come to mind what had left of the other question, on “what can feminine consecrated life do?” It is a criterion that you must look at again, which the Church must also look at again. Your work, mine and that of us all, is service. It’s a bit difficult to explain, because I don’t want you to think of concrete cases, which perhaps would be a bad thought, because no one knows the circumstances well. But let us think of a parish priest, a parish priest that for safety we image: “No, my Rectory is in the hands of two Sisters” – “And are they the ones who manage things?” – “Yes, yes!” “And what do they do of apostolate, of catechesis?” – “No, no, only that!” No! This is servitude! Tell me, mister parish priest, if in your city there aren’t good women, who are in need of work. Hire one or two to do that service. Let these two Sisters go to the schools, to the neighbourhoods, to the sick, to the poor. This is the criterion that helps many, because when one wishes a consecrated woman to do a work of servitude, the life and dignity of that woman are devalued.  Her vocation is service: service to the Church, wherever she is, but not servitude!

See, now {I answer} Teresina: According to you, what is the place of feminine apostolic religious life inside the Church? What would the Church be lacking if there were no longer women religious? Mary would be lacking the day of Pentecost! There is no Church without Mary! There is no Pentecost without Mary! But Mary was there, perhaps she didn’t speak … I’ve said this, but — I like to repeat it. The consecrated woman is an icon of the Church; she is an icon of Mary. The priest is not an icon of the Church; he is not an icon of Mary: he is an icon of the Apostles, of the disciples who are sent to preach, but not of the Church and of Mary. When I say this I want to make you reflect on the fact that the Church is feminine; the Church is woman, she is a she, not a he. But she is a woman married to Jesus Christ; she has her Spouse, who is Jesus Christ. And when a Bishop is chosen for a diocese, the Bishop marries, in the name of Christ, that particular Church. The Church is woman! And a woman’s consecration makes her in fact icon of the Church and icon of Our Lady. And this, we men cannot do. This will help you to deepen, from this theological root, a great role in the Church. And I would like this not to be eluded.

I am totally in agreement  [on the conclusion of the third question]. The Church: you are the Church, all of us are. The hierarchy – we say – of the Church must speak of you, but first and at the moment it must speak with you! This is certain. You must be present in the Assembly of the CIVCSVA. Yes, yes! I will say this to the Prefect: you must be present in the Assembly! It’s clear, because to speak of someone who is absent is not even evangelical: we must hear, listen to what is thought, and then we must carry it out together. I’m in agreement. Truly, I never imagined so much detachment. And thank you for having said it so courageously and with that smile. I permit myself a beating. You did it with a smile, which in Piedmont is said the smile of the mugna quacia [with a naive face]. Good! Yes, you are right in this. I think it’s easy to reform; I’ll speak about it with the Prefect. “But this General Assembly won’t speak of the Sisters; it will speak of something else …”It’s necessary to hear the Sisters because they have another view of the thing. It’s what I said earlier: it’s important that you are always inserted … I thank you for your question.

Do we need a clarification in regard to this? Something more? Is it clear?

Remember this well: what would the Church lack if women religious didn’t exist?

Mary would be lacking on the day of Pentecost. The woman religious is icon of the Church and of Mary; and the Church is feminine, married to Jesus Christ.

Fourth question

The obstacle we meet as consecrated women inside the Church.

Dearest Holy Father, many Institutes are facing the challenge of bringing novelties  in the way of life and in the structures reviewing the Constitutions. This is revealing itself difficult, because we find ourselves blocked by Canon Law. Do you foresee changes in Canon Law, so as to facilitate these novelties?

Moreover, young people today have difficulty in thinking of a permanent commitment, be it in marriage or in religious life. Can we be open to temporary commitments? And another aspect: in carrying out our ministry in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, we are often erroneously regarded as social activists or as if we took political positions. Some ecclesial authorities would like us to be more mystical and less apostolic. What value is given to apostolic consecrated life and, in particular, to women, by some parts of the hierarchic Church?

Pope Francis

First. The changes that must be made to assume the new challenges: You have spoken of novelties, novelties in the positive sense, if I understood well, new things that come … And the Church is a teacher in this, because she has had to change so much, so much in history. However, in every change there must be discernment, and there cannot be discernment without prayer. How is discernment done? By prayer, dialogue and then discernment in common. There is need to ask for the gift of discernment, to be able to discern.

For instance, a businessman must make changes in his firm: he evaluates with concreteness, and does what his conscience tells him. In our life, there is another personage: the Holy Spirit. And to make a change, we must evaluate all the concrete circumstances, this is true, but to enter into a process of discernment with the Holy Spirit there must be prayer, dialogue and common discernment. I think that on this point we are not well formed – when I say “we” I am speaking also of priests – in the discernment of situations, and we must try to have experiences and also seek a person that can explain well how discernment is done: a good spiritual father who knows these things well and can explain them to us, which is not a simple “pro and against,” do the sum and onwards. No, it’s something more. Every change that must be made requires entering in this process of discernment. And this will give you more freedom, more freedom! Canon Law: but there is no problem. In the last century, Canon Law was changed – if I’m not mistaken – twice: in 1917 and then under Saint John Paul II. Small changes can be made, are made. These, instead, were two changes of the whole Code. The Code is a disciplinary aid, an aid for the salvation of souls, for all this: it is the juridical aid of the Church for trials, for so many things, but which in the last century was totally changed twice, remade. And in this way, parts can be changed. Two months ago a request arrived to change a canon, I don’t remember well …. I had a study made and the Secretary of State made consultations and all were in agreement that yes, this had to be changed for the greater good, and it was changed. The Code is an instrument, this is very important.

But I insist: never make a change without carrying out a process of discernment, personal and communal. And this will give you freedom, because you put there, in the change, the Holy Spirit. It is what Saint Paul did, Saint Peter himself, when he felt that the Lord was pushing him to baptize the pagans. When we read the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we marvel at so much change, so much change … It’s the Spirit! This is interesting: in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles aren’t the protagonists; it’s the Spirit who is. “The Spirit constrains one to do that”; “the Spirit says to Philip: go here and there, find the Minister of the Economy and baptize him”; “the Spirit does,” “the Spirit says: no, do not come here” … It’s the Spirit. It’s the Spirit who gave the Apostles the courage to make this revolutionary change of baptizing the pagans without following the way of the Jewish catechesis or the Jewish practices. It’s interesting: in the first chapters, is the Letter that, after the Council of Jerusalem, the Apostles sent to the converted pagans. Recounting all that they had done: The Holy Spirit and we decided this.” This is an example of discernment that they made. Do every change this way, with the Holy Spirit. That is: discernment, prayer and also concrete evaluation of the situations.

And there’s no problem with the Code; it is an instrument.

In regard to the permanent commitment of young people – we live in a “culture of the provisional.” Some time ago, a Bishop told me that a young University student had come to him, who had finished University, <he was> 23/24 years old, and said to him: “I would like to become a priest, but only for ten years.” It’s the culture of the provisional. It’s like this in marriage cases. “I marry you while love lasts and then goodbye — but love understood in a hedonistic sense, in the sense of today’s culture — these marriages are obviously void, they aren’t valid. They have no awareness of the perpetuity of the commitment. It’s like this in marriages. In the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, read the problem, it’s in the first chapters, and read how to prepare for marriage. A person said to me: “I don’t understand this: to become a priest one must study, prepare oneself for eight years, more or less. And then, if it’s not right, or if one falls in love with a beautiful girl, the Church allows one to go, get married, begin another life. To get married – which is for the whole of life, which is “for” life –  in many dioceses there are three or four conferences in preparation <for marriage> … But this isn’t right! How can a parish priest sign that they are prepared for marriage, with this culture of the provisional, with only four explanations? It’s a very serious problem. The intuition of Saint Vincent of Paula on consecrated life has always struck me – positively: he saw that the Sisters of Charity must renew their vows, only for a year. But he did so as a charism, not as the culture of the provisional: to give freedom.  I believe that in consecrated life temporary vows facilitate this. And, I don’t know, you look into it, but I would rather be favourable to prolonging a bit the temporary vows, because of the culture of the provisional that young people have today: that is  … to prolong the engagement before entering marriage. This is important.

[Now the Pope answers a part of a question that was not read but written]

The requests for money in our local Churches. The problem of money is a very important problem, be it in consecrated life, be it in the diocesan Church. We must never forget that the devil enters “through the pockets”: be it through the pockets of the Bishop, be it through the pockets of the Congregation. This touches the problem of poverty, of which I will speak later. But the avidity for money is the first step for the corruption of a parish, of a diocese, of a Congregation of consecrated life; it’s the first step. I believe it was for this purpose: the payment for Sacraments. Look, if someone asks for this, denounce the fact. Salvation is free. God has saved you freely; salvation is as a “squandering of gratuitousness.” There is no salvation for payment; there are not Sacraments for payment. Is this clear? I know, I have seen in my life corruption in this. I remember a case, just after being appointed Bishop, I had the poorest area of Buenos Aires: it is divided into four Vicariates. There were so many immigrants there of American countries, and it happened that when they came to get married the parish priests would say: “These people don’t have the certificate of Baptism.” And when they requested it in their country they were told: “Yes, but first send US$100 – I remember a case – and then I will send it to you.” I talked to the Cardinal, and the Cardinal spoke with the Bishop of the place … But, in the meantime, the people could get married without the certificate of Baptism, with the oath of the parents or the godparents. And this payment, not only of the Sacrament but of the certificates… I remember once in Buenos Aires that a young man came to the parish, who was to be married, to ask for the nulla osta to get married in another <parish>: it’s a simple means. The secretary said to him: “Yes, come back tomorrow, come tomorrow and it will be here, it costs this much”: a good sum. But it is a service: it’s about verifying the data and filling in <the form>. And he – he was a good, very fervent young lawyer, a very good Catholic – came to me, <asking>: “Now what should I do?” “Go tomorrow and say that you have sent the check to the Archbishop, and that the Archbishop will give him the check” — the commerce of money.

However, here we touch on a serious problem, which is the problem of poverty. I’ll tell you something: when a religious Institute – and this is true also for other situations – when a religious Institute feels it is dying, that it does not have the capacity to attract new elements, it feels that perhaps the time has passed for which the Lord had chosen that Congregation, the temptation is avidity. Why? Because they think: “At least we have money for our old age.” This is grave. And what is the solution given by the Church? The <solution is the> union of several Institutes with similar charisms, and then go forward, but money is never, never the solution for spiritual problems. It’s a necessary aid, but so much so. Saint Ignatius used to say about poverty, that it is ‘Mother” and “wall” of religious life. It makes us grow in religious life as mother, and protects us. And decadence begins when poverty is lacking. I remember, in the other diocese, when a very important school of Sisters had to redo the house of the Sisters; it was old, it had to be remade; and they did a good job. They did a good job. But in those times, I’m speaking of the years ’93, ’94 more or less – they said: Let’s make all the comforts, the room with a private bathroom, and everything, and even television. In that school, which was so important, between 2 and 4 in the afternoon you wouldn’t find one Sister in the school::; they were all in their room watching a soap opera! Because there is a lack of poverty, and this leads one to a comfortable life, to fantasies … It’s an example, perhaps the only one in the world, but <given> to understand the danger of too much comfort, of the lack of poverty and of a certain austerity.

[Another part of the question not read but written]

“Women Religious do not receive a stipend for the services they carry out, as priests receive. How can we demonstrate the attractive face of our subsistence? How can we find the necessary financial resources to fulfil our mission?”

Pope Francis

I will say two things to you. First: see how the charism is, the inside of your charism – each one has her own – and what is the place of poverty, because there are Congregations that exact a very poor life, very strong; others, not so much, and both are approved by the Church. Seek poverty according to the charism. Then, savings. It’s prudent to have savings; it’s prudent to have good administration, perhaps with some investment, that’s prudent: for the Houses of Formation, to carry forward the poor works, to carry forward schools for the poor, to carry out apostolic works … A Foundation of the Congregation itself: this should be done, as wealth can do one ill and corrupt the vocation, misery can too. If poverty becomes misery, this also does one ill. Seen is the spiritual prudence of the Community in common discernment: the economy informs, all talk together, if it’s too much, if it’s not too much … that maternal prudence. But, please, don’t let yourselves be deceived by friends of the Congregation, who then will “fleece” you and take everything away for you. I’ve seen so many cases, and I have told about others, of Sisters who lost everything because they trusted so in so … “a good friend of the Congregation”! There are so many crafty <fellows>, so many crafty <fellows>. Prudence is never to consult only one person: when you are in need, consult several different persons. The administration of goods is a very great responsibility in consecrated life. If you don’t have what is necessary to live, tell the Bishop. Say to God: “Give us today our bread,” the true bread. But speak with the Bishop, with the Superior General, with the Congregation for Religious about what is necessary, because religious life is a path of poverty but it’s not suicide! And this is healthy prudence. Is this clear?

And then, where there are conflicts for what the local Churches ask you, it’s necessary to pray, to discern and to have courage, when you must say “no”; and to have generosity, when you should, to say “yes.” But you will see what is necessary: discernment in every case!

Question (taken up again)

“While we carry out our ministry, we remain in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, we are often regarded as social activists or as if were taking political positions. Some ecclesial authorities see our ministry negatively, stressing that we should be more concentrated on a form of mystical life. In these circumstances, how can we live our prophetic vocation …”

Answer (continuous)

Yes. All women Religious, all consecrated women must live mystically, because yours is an espousal; yours is a vocation of maternity; it is a vocation to be in the place of Mother Church and of Mother Mary. But those who say this to you, think that to be mystical is always a mummy, always praying so … No, no. You must pray and work according to your charism; and when the charisms leads you to go forward with the refugees, with the poor you must do so, and they will call you: Communist: it’s the least they’ll say to you. But you must do it, because your charism leads you to this.

I remember a Sister in Argentina who was Provincial of her Congregation. A very good woman, and she is still working … she is almost my age, yes. And she works against the traffickers of youth, of young persons. I remember, that in the military government of Argentina, they wanted to send her to prison, they pressured the Bishop; they pressured the Provincial Superior, before she herself became Provincial, “because this woman is Communist.” And this woman saved so many, so many girls! And yes, it’s the cross. What did they say about Jesus? That He was Beelzebub, that He had Beelzebub’s power. Calumny – be prepared for it. If you do good, with prayer before God, assuming all the consequences of your charism and go forward, prepare yourselves for defamation and calumny, because the Lord chose this way for Himself! And we, Bishops, must protect these women who are icons of the Church, when they do  difficult things or are calumniated, and are persecuted.  To be persecuted is the last of the Beatitudes. The Lord said to us: Blessed are you when you are persecuted, insulted” and all these things.

However, here the danger could be: “I do my thing” – no, no: you hear this, they persecute you: speak. Speak with your community, with your Superior, with everyone; seek advice, discern: once again the word. And this woman religious of whom I spoke now, I found weeping one day, and she said: “Look at the letter I’ve received from Rome – I won’t say from whom –; what must I do?” “Are you a daughter of the Church?” – “Yes!” – “Do you want to obey the Church?” – “Yes!” “Answer that you will obey the Church and then go to your Superior, go to the Community, go to your Bishop –which I was – and the Church will say what you must do. But not a letter that comes from 12,000 km,” because there a friend of the Sister’s enemies had written, that she was calumniated. Be courageous but with discernment, prayer and dialogue.

Conclusion

“A word of encouragement to us leaders, that we endure the burden of the day.”

Pope Francis

But give yourselves a breather! Rest, because many ills come from the lack of healthy rest, rest in the family … This is important to endure the burden of the day.” You also mentioned here the elderly and sick Sisters. But these Sisters are the memory of the Institute; these Sisters are those who have sown, who laboured, and now are paralytics or very sick or left aside. These Sisters pray for the Institute. This is very important, that they feel involved in the Institute’s prayer. These Sisters also have a very great experience: some more, some less. Listen to them! Go to them: “Tell me, Sister, what do you think of this, or that?” They must feel consulted and from their wisdom good advice will flow. Be sure of it.

This is what came to me to say to you. I know that I always repeat myself and say the same things, but life is like this .. I like to hear the questions, because they make me think and I feel like the goal keeper, who is there, waiting for the ball wherever it comes from …This is good and you do this also in the dialogue.

The things I promised to do I will do. And pray for me; I pray for you. And let’s go forward. Our life is for the Lord, for the Church and for the people, who suffer so much and are in need of the Father’s caress through you! Thank you!

I propose something to you: let us end with our Mother. Each one of you, in her own language, pray the Hail Mary. I will pray it in Spanish.

Hail Mary …

[Blessing]

And pray for me, so that I can serve the Church well.  

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

 

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