ConAltriOcchi blog – 以不同的眼光看世界-博客

"C'è un solo modo di vedere le cose finché qualcuno non ci mostra come guardare con altri occhi" – "There is only one way to see things, until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes" (Picasso) – "人观察事物的方式只有一种,除非有人让我们学会怎样以不同的眼光看世界" (毕加索)

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The caress that changed history

The absurd choice of proclaiming Saint John XXIII as the Patron Saint of the Italian Army

The choice of naming Saint John XXIII as Patron Saint of the Italian Army leaves us more than a little perplexed. Even today if we go into Italian homes – and not only Italian ones – just inside the entrance we find a somewhat faded photograph of Pope John, with his serene and assuring face. In the collective conscience, Pope John is associated with his goodness, with his historic encyclical on peace, which bore not only his name but was a banner, Pacem in Terris; he is associated with his visits to the Regina Coeli prison in Rome as well as the Bambino Gesù Hospital. His is a daily holiness that penetrates all homes. The whole world still remembers his caress to be given to children in that unforgettable speech at the opening ceremony of the Second Vatican Council. What should we say today when we get home: “ give your children a helmet and a rifle “?

This choice, made some time ago, at least since 1966, although formally motivated, has a musty, old Curia flavour. It seems out of place, stretching a point, the flick of a tail of past history, a choice against conciliation. The People of God doesn’t appear to need a patron saint of the army but urgently needs men of peace.
Roncalli ,Patriarch of Venice, wrote to his successor, Montini: “the Pope desires the presence of this priest in Rome; to grant this request is a grave sacrifice for Venice, but I grant it because it is ‘necessary to look far and wide’ in the Church”. There is no question at all that throughout his life, Pope John XXIII contributed to bringing the Church out of the shallows of time and enabling it to sail to the ends of the earth, starting it off on that great adventure of the Spirit that was the Council. In contrast, the choice of making him the Patron Saint of the Italian Army appears to be inappropriate and short-sighted.
Pope John XXIII witnessed that the Word of God does not make war but is a Word of love that God announced to us, to the world, to history and that caress was like a gentle breeze on our life. . He witnessed that the Word of God is an effective Word that performs what it was sent to do. He witnessed that the Word of God bears within it the lament of all flesh and all humankind on the road towards the fullness of God. .
The posthumous involvement of Mons Loris Capovilla , the Pope’s personal secretary also appears to be in bad taste. If it hadn’t been him that evening when the Council opened, to convince the Pope, with his intelligence and bonhomie, to appear at the window once again after a long and tiring day, children, sick people, old people and men of peace all over the world would today be lacking that caress. The caress that changed History.
Many authoritative voices have been raised against the title of Patron Saint of the Italian Army for John XXIII. The Bishop of Pescara- Penne Valentinetti “it is disrespectful to name him as Patron Saint of the Armed Forces ”. “Pope John XXIII is in all hearts as the Good Pope, the Peace Pope, not the Pope of armies” declared Mons. Giovanni Ricchiuti, Bishop of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti and President of Pax Christi Italia. «I don’t want to go into the matter because unfortunately I was only informed about it this morning» declared the Chairman of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti .

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Pope Francis, true witness of the Joy of the Gospel

22nd February, the Church is celebrating the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The Chair marks the primatial role of Peter in the Apostolic College  when Jesus assigned him the task of  “feeding” his flock. Today, on this Chair sits Pope Francis and it is shining with a special light, allowing us to catch sight of the holy Spirit at work in the Church.

Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si’ e Amoris Laetitia.   Joy, Praise, Delight. The very names of the documents of the Pope’s teaching  enable us to understand clearly the faith in God and trust in men which live in Francis’s priestly heart.  Biblical joy erupts powerfully:  “I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” A joy which came into the world and is not reserved only for an exclusive club.

Those who speak always and only of  “doctrine” are sad Christians and cannot be good witnesses of the Gospel which, in regard to witnesses, speaks thus of John:” the disciple beloved of Jesus”. The disciples must be taught first and foremost with love, by loving them, welcoming them just as they are,  walking along a stretch of road with them, “infecting them” with a coherent testimony of Christian life.

If we don’t: “stop seeking those personal or communal niches which enable us to maintain a distance from the issue of human drama”(AL) we will be unable to understand the “drama” of the Kerygma;  the Kerygma isn’t doctrine but drama. Announcing the Gospel without personal involvement is not only a useless illusion, it is also counterproductive.  Without the odour of his sheep, the Shepherd is no longer a shepherd and becomes a wolf, smelling only of incense and ink and no longer has the shepherd’s dirty garments but robes of Constantinian memory and so the sheep flee from Him.

«No one has seen God at any time but the one and only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared him». Unless he is the God who makes himself known through the Word Incarnate of the Son of Man, this God is not the Christian God but a mere concept or even an ideological instrument who says nothing to our hearts.  God’s people need Shepherds who warm their hearts not Instructions for Use. After all,  warm hearts are like clay, more malleable and gradually masterpieces emerge; hearts full of instructions for use are beautiful on the outside but do not beat within and cannot be shaped in any way whatsoever.

At times not only do we not want to make the effort to get to know the God of Jesus Christ, but often not even Man; man is a mixture of mud and Spirit. The mud is an important thing; it is the sweat we see every day in our streets;  it is the blood that so many families spill to reach the end of the month with dignity; it is the “marvellous complexity” of life. The Spirit needs this mud, the Church needs it, we all need it; in order never to forget that All is Grace.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God”.  In a certain sense, we are not born Sons of God but become them; we become them by welcoming Jesus and imitating his life of love, which are the beatitudes.  We also gradually become a family; and when we are unable to for many reasons, the people remain, forever, the image and likeness of God.

Often we waste too much energy fighting evil; “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”. To receive the love of God and then manifest it immediately to those we meet, simply, with joy and unconditionally, like a secret of the heart. To love unconditionally.  Many times in the countryside, we have seen the light expanding gradually at dawn and the darkness fleeing from the sunlight. It is only light which overcomes the darkness, because it overpowers it, the law can sanction it but no more than that.

The Magisterium of Pope Francis is a “perilous” light; it is enough to go to a parish and talk to the people to experience how people feel respected, loved and encouraged by His words and His example.  We can almost feel the fatherhood and motherhood of the Church physically.

A testimony, that of Pope Francis, of life, fidelity to the Gospel and to the Tradition of the Church (not to the precepts of men). A faith which is coherent with honesty, sobriety, justice and charity and which knows how to transmit the joy of meeting the Resurrected Christ to the new generations.

The Spirit summons us to an original and ever new identity to which we must abandon ourselves with faith.  The Spirit tells us that Jesus Christ isn’t the guardian of the fort,  he’s not a point of reference of the past, he is not a footrest for every egotism, even ecclesial, but a guarantee for the future.

We know very well that there is no future without memory of the past. Our memory, however, cannot exist of professions of faith proclaimed with a sword in hand, with the tendency to exclude the weakest. The unity of the Church cannot be maintained by a criterion of egotism and the desire to raise barriers, by widening the “the walls of Jericho” even more.

The language of Christianity is a universal language; it is a language of unity but not uniformity; The Spirit teaches us to speak this universal language every day of our lives.

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Contemplate this Holy Year, by starting from the Cross

On Mount Calvary, in front of the Cross, it is better not to talk or to cry out but only to contemplate.    Let us contemplate the Cross as a synthesis of all those who give their lives for love.  Let us also contemplate this Holy Year which has ended, by starting from the Cross; let us contemplate it, not by referring to numbers, or to major events but only to the Mystery of the Cross.   I would also like to say let us contemplate the Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Sì, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s three great documents as well, starting here, from a Pope who just like Jesus wishes to give his life for  the human family he so loves and who tells the Church “You must do this too” as he tells each and everyone of us.  We have received with joy  Pope Francis’s  Apostolic Letter  “Misericordia et Misera” in order to listen to the final words of the Bishop of Rome on the Holy Year of Mercy.

Meanwhile let us contemplate the Cross. ”Ecce Homo”.  Whoever sees this man on the cross sees God, our faith tells us.  It is Jesus on the Cross not Caifa . This point is very important.   We have to be careful of the Politics which wants to defend religion.   How often do we hear that such and such a politician or party defends  Catholic values? We must be careful because there is the risk of turning God’s house into a market or a cavern of thieves;  indeed, it is not a risk but almost a certainty. We must rather ask  Politics, the kingdoms of this world that is,  with force to defend the dignity and freedom of men and women, of all men and women and especially, today, migrants and all minorities.  Let us therefore ask Trump and Putin and other world leaders, to make peace but real peace. Not only do we have to fear when the Mighty make war but also when they make peace.  Jesus was nailed to the Cross when Pilate and Herod made peace over Him, on His suffering.

Let us pray for a peace which will never again be shouldered by the poor.   For example, a peace made  when brandishing arms is not true peace.    Nor can peace between people who in private are immoral or amoral  be called peace.

Let us pray then to Jesus with his two biblical titles.  Let us pray today to Christ the King of Peace.  A kingdom which is freeing itself of all the cloaks and crowns of Constantine as a result of the enormous missionary efforts made by Pope Francis; the kingdom of Christ  is Peace and Mercy.   Let us pray to Christ the King of Peace and Mercy. Let us then pray to the Son of Man who, even though he was the son learned obedience from the things he suffered: Jesus King of Peace and Mercy suffered the violence of Power which rebelled against him;  power, also causes the Pope to suffer, but just like Jesus, he doesn’t answer. 

It might appear that by dying on the Cross, Jesus lost;  it might appear that the Church of Mercy is destined to lose;  so mighty is Power. Instead, Christ has already won, the Pope of Mercy has already won, because mercy is not only in the hands of certain holy people whom we meet throughout history but also in the hands of Our Father who is in Heaven.

That cross, that Son of Man, was resurrected by the Father who made him the Lord!  Where? On which throne? Not on any throne. This King’s throne is the conscience of those men and women who believe in mercy, peace, dialogue, ecumenism and universal brotherhood and are prepared to give their life for this faith.   This is why the Church of Mercy has already won.   For the other worldly things, we may have many teachers but when we enter the sphere of pain and death, there is no teacher;  all voices fall silent.  Only from this Pulpit which is the Cross, can the suffering experienced by so many poor people teach us to listen and to contemplate a love  which is even greater than death.   Only a Church of Mercy is the Church of Christ.

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Escape from wolves. Pope Francis Good Shepherd

«I now realize how true it is that God shows no partiality, rather in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. .»(Acts 10,34). In this text of the Acts, Peter uses the verb αγαπάω which means to welcome with affection, love with tenderness; it is repeated many times in the Gospels and the Acts. In John’s letter, the same word is repeated ten times. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”(1Jn 4,8).
To transmit faith means to show the same love for our brothers, indeed for all mankind. When Peter met the pagan, Cornelius the centurion and his family, he was conquered by a revelation of the Spirit, not by his own reasoning. It was revealed to Peter that the love of God does not let itself be limited by the laws or traditions of any doctrine whatsoever and does not, because of this, become do-goodism or relativism.

These simple quotations from the Scriptures seem to us sufficient to dismantle the basis of those objections from some parts which see the Catholic Church during the Pontificate of Francis on the brink of descending into relativism, delivered into the arms of a world, depicted, who knows why, in a prejudiced manner as being totally hostile to the Church.
We will try to answer some of these concerns:
1) The Pope has been accused of speaking little and badly about our Christian roots as a foundation of our freedom, as opposed to his predecessors.
The answer that can be given is twofold; first and foremost the “foundations of our freedom”, are not, strictly speaking, our Christian roots, but Christ himself and this makes the difference. The foundations are Christ himself who also respected other roots, first and foremost Judaic roots, and who, if he claimed any primacy, let us say, of foundation, it was only the primacy of love and service; Christians are the salt of the earth and the yeast in the dough and do not claim any dominant or exclusive position which would even be contrary to the Gospel.
In fact, the real problem, especially in some national churches, is that they talked, on the contrary, about Christian roots too much and badly, particularly the so-called devout atheists and conservative Catholics, who defended hanging the crucifix on walls and in their writings but whose lifestyle often contradicted the message of the crucifix in a blatant manner or theorized separation between public and private morality. To forget this is unacceptable. This certainly does not mean putting the so-called European roots before all else.
“Jesus of Nazareth, Him ye have taken and nailed to the cross “(Acts 2,23) says Peter; the devout atheists and conservative Catholics have seen fit to take him down from the wooden cross, that is to say from the humility and simplicity and from the suffering of so many poor people who carry the cross every day, in order to hang him on the walls of cheap politics and even on the shields of armies, thus depriving the crucifix of its profound meaning. Pope Francis talks about Christian roots when it is necessary and in an appropriate manner, not in an ideological way or by making sterile assertions but asks us to rediscover and truly live those roots today. In this regard, we wish to recall the long speech he made during his pontificate to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25th November 2014, in which he quoted many passages from John Paul II and made them his own.
2) The contribution of Christianity to any culture is that of Christ with the Washing of Feet, said Pope Francis to La Croix during an interview. According to some, the Pope had forgotten to evoke the Sermon on the Mount and The Beatitudes, the basis for the Washing of Feet.
Here, we will be very brief since it is obvious that such objections are prejudiced. It is clear that the Pope places the foundations of the Gospel on Love without any ambiguousness in his actions and speeches. One of many is when he reminds us that the church is not a NGO and emphasizes the primacy of Charity in his mandate – incidentally, totally in line with Pope Benedict XVI. Moreover, we cannot, naturally, read the Gospels only with the before-and-after principle. It is clear for all to see that Pope Francis is the Pope of the Beatitudes, since he talks and writes so much about them and above all tries to live them.
3) The Pope sustains that there is no fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest and, the Pope continues:” it is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam but it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus sends his disciples forth to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest”. It would appear that some people have interpreted this “provocation” of Pope Francis literally, as in so many old and new fundamentalisms, as if the Pope was putting the Gospel’s message on the same level as fundamentalist violence. This is clearly another striking attempt to twist the facts. They are attributing to the Pope – and not in a particularly efficient way, expressions and convictions which clearly do not belong to him. These prophets of doom refer to Benedict XVI’s Regensburg speech in 2006 in which he sustained that Islam had a problem with violence of a religious origin and state that today instead Francis is affirming that Christianity and Islam reflect each other on the problem of religious violence. In support of this bizarre theory, they have not quoted any words used by Pope Francis other than those already mentioned. They haven’t quoted them because they simply don’t exist.
To accuse Pope Francis of putting religious violence in Christianity and Islamic fundamentalism on the same level is misleading and incorrect. The true problem in our opinion concerns those who do not wish to dialogue with Islam, those who are incapable of seeking the common ground for confrontation and who are not even able to recognize the great cultural tradition of the Arab World (let it suffice to think just of Avicenna and Averroes). To wind back the clock of history to a climate of war among religions is very dangerous and counterproductive. All the popes knew this very well and have always been careful never to refer to a scenario or a risk of this kind.
On the other hand, referring back to his previous teaching, Benedict XVI had affirmed in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Church in the Middle East”, signed in The Lebanon during his apostolic journey in 2012, that fundamentalism: “afflicts all religious communities and denies their long-standing tradition of co-existence”. He then exhorted the Lebanese young people to be:“servants of peace and reconciliation is an urgent need to make a commitment for building together a free and humane society ” (Address to the Young People of The Lebanon 2012). We know today, just how dangerous a slide there is in several Christian groups towards forms of fundamentalism in expressing their faith, above all in the more recent ones.
Let us also recall the famous words of Imam Mohammad Mehdi Chamseddine, Head of the Sciite Islamic Council in The Lebanon from 1994 to 2001 ; he declared that “ the Christians of The Lebanon are the responsibility of the Muslims”, meaning their right to exist and express themselves.
We feel that instead of exploiting the pontificates by comparing one to the other and attributing them with the presumed licence of Defenders of the Faith or of relativists, or fomenting religious fears and divisions, it would be better and more evangelical to contribute to dialogue and better knowledge between Islam and Christianity. We can take an example, in fact, from the great testimony to this proposal of the Maronite Church in the Lebanon, by sustaining also the greatest strengths existing in Islam. And we should look at ourselves and strive to be better Christians , individually and as nations and societies which profess to be coherent Christians, without merely using a facade of banner waving and revendications. Let us look at the problem of the migrants, for example. What are so many Nations in “Christian Europe” replying?
4) In Amoris Laetitia, according to some people, the logic of the et et is being replaced by that of the non solum sed etiam. In short there is a bit of everything and also its opposite in order to keep everybody happy. Let us quote as an example number 308 of the document: “the Church’s Pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full idea of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravations or unduly harsh and hasty judgements”. Must we therefore deduce, comments one famous journalist that:“ the most efficient way to be compassionate is not exactly that of proposing the full ideal of the Gospel?”.
First of all, let us ask ourselves what is meant by the Gospel. In our opinion, this question does not take into account Francis’ logic of inclusion which is, naturally, fully evangelical and in the Tradition of the Church. John Paul II, when addressing the Italian bishops after the Convention of Palermo in 1995, already affirmed that:”Jesus Christ is the Truth of God which is Love and the truth of men and women who are called upon to live, together with God, in charity”. Amoris Laetitia  is a great contribution to the Church which Pope Francis made on St. Joseph’s Day on 19th March last. At the heart of the document is the Pope’s desire to :”bring help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges (AL 4). Furthermore, we must not forget that we are in the midst of the Holy Year of Mercy and we are all called upon in a special way to be the sign and instrument of Grace. It is not the weaknesses of men and women, or their inability to carry out their mission perfectly which are at the centre of Christianity , nor is it the past with its load of good and evil done. What counts is our profession of faith, to profess like Peter in front of Jesus: you are the son of the living God. As soon as we do so, that is by saying with conviction to Jesus: you are Christ, the Saviour, we discover, like Peter, the greatness of God’s project with each one of us. Whoever is used to relating to situations, happenings and people, on the basis of traditions and laws, cannot understand the face of a God who is Love.
In our parishes, we can touch the fruits of mercy with our hands, in particular for the many Zaccheos we meet. Zaccheo felt himself to be loved, like Peter and Paul felt it, as the adulteress and the man blind from birth felt it and many others as told in the Bible and in our daily life. To feel loved by God is the true beginning of any conversion which has a foundation in Christ. The “conversions” founded on rules or on moral principles result in fanaticism, inflexibility and elitist forms of pseudo Christianity.
5 ) During a visit to the Lutheran Church in Rome, in answer to a question about the possibility of taking holy communion together with a Catholic, a journalist said that the Pope assumed an ambiguous position, moreover on a crucial issue.
Rereading the Pope’s reply, we can easily see that Francis is starting from Baptism which is common to the faith of both Catholics and Lutherans, and was only and simply auguring that we continue to march at the head of which is the Holy Spirit who will guide us towards the complete truth. No-one’s conscience may be left out of this truth. The Pope doesn’t want to create divisions, nor does he want to place barriers against the Holy Spirit. There isn’t perhaps a definitive word now to define why we are marching. But we trust in the Spirit and how Christians, Catholics and Lutherans, march together, questioning each other and trying to understand the will of God for us. Anyone who knows and frequents our Lutheran brothers knows from direct experience that in dialogue we have more future than past and that the Sensus fidei of God’s People is not a marginal accessory. In this regard, we suggest reading the document issued by the International Theological Commission entitled “ il Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church” published in 2014. And the ecumenical celebration on 31 October – 1 November last in Lund is already history overcoming by far any hysteria and misleading interpretations.
To conclude, some people are recounting that our parishes are being besieged by people who expect to be godfathers and godmothers, to take Holy Communion or to enrol their children in summer camps without having the necessary requisites. All this is happening, they say, because of the confusion into which Pope Francis has thrown us. In the past, no-one has ever berated situations where we have seen VIP’s without the basic requisites get married in church, even with “top level” celebrants, or the very bad habit, also widespread in our Church of Rome, of getting married in a “beautiful church” with exorbitant costs for flowers and decorations, far removed from a serious and coherent path towards faith.
We know many parishes, including our own, and we can affirm that today it is not the People of God who are confused, they only ask to be respected and valued, but rather the remaining devout atheists and Catholics who sit in the front pews of the Church and still, after many years, do not want to accept a Church that has made a strong 360 degree return to the Gospel and which is seeking to implement the Council (always praised at first but then often forgotten in reality, walking alongside today’s men and women, guiding them in the trustworthy company of the Church).
It is these defenders of an old church which no longer exists who are in confusion today, who have given it exclusive space for too many years, ignoring sensitivity and different voices. Many pseudo lay Catholics and clerics who behind the backs of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, reduced the Church to a cavern of thieves during their pontificates, taking care of their own interests with the current powers-that-be, selling the Gospel for a handful of coins, scheming in both the gay and financial lobbies, putting any evangelizing activities in the hands of ecclesiastic movements, humiliating parishes and the people of God; pseudo Catholics defending principles they do not follow and and making judgements on the tragedies of people to whom they don’t listen.
Worn out by an exhausting battle, Pope Benedict XVI resigned, performing an extraordinary evangelic action. Many lay and clerical lobbyists are still in their places and this is why the People of God no longer believe them and follow the good shepherds and the Gospel: : “a stranger will they not follow but will flee from him”(Gv10,5).
Thank you, Pope Francis, Good Shepherd following in Christ’s footsteps. We will always continue to pray for you.

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The other half of the Church

Fr. Francesco Pesce and Monica Romano

You have followed in recent weeks news on the topic of the role of women in the Church. A topic not much treated to tell the truth ( at least in Italy ), with a few “exploit” at times a bit childish, picked up by some newspapers but that then fall on deaf ears. Speaking to the International Union of Superiors General gathering these days in Rome, in responding to a question from a female religious, Pope Francis said he was willing to form a commission to study the issue of women deacons. A topic of a conference held precisely in the days before in Munster, Germany, sponsored by the KFD and other lay organizations. Even at the last Synod of Bishops on the Family, Mon. Paul Andre Durocher – Bishop of Gatineau, former President of the Canadian Bishops’ Conference – had requested access for women to the diaconate which, according to tradition, is not directed to “sacerdotium sed ad ministerium“. In the 90s Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini had hinted at the possibility of the female diaconate and it emerged that there was still need to further study the nature and practice of women deacons in the early Church. In an article by Civiltá Cattolica of 1999, the main aspects of the debate were analyzed , focusing on the distinction between a female diaconate intended as a service (“diakonia” in fact ) and the diaconate as a first step to the sacred orders, such as that for men, from which women are excluded in the Catholic Church. A few weeks ago, some controversy arose about the words of Enzo Bianchi, prior of the Bose Community , who claimed that women could offer the homily.

But what do women , especially Catholic ones, think of those things that affect them? Of their role, their contribution in the Church? We seem to observe that women engaged in the forefront of the Church life do not talk much about this issue, while their actions speak louder than words. And, their contribution in the parishes, in educational institutions, in charitable work, in hospitals and welfare centers and missionary activities is simply extraordinary. Women already have a role in the Church: help the priests in the management of many parish activities, they are at the forefront in the missions, they guide entire religious orders including international ones, teach the Bible and Theology … It should be these women to provide their points of view on their role in the Church. Avoiding standpoints that are weak and covered in a backward feminist approach, which hardly represent them and are unhelpful in launching a global re-valuation of the role of the woman in the Church that – we must accept – is absolutely necessary, for the benefit of the whole People of God, Pope and bishops included.


Particolar from a painting by Marco Rupnik, Centro Aletti (Rome)

Let’s analyse each steps. The Bible sets off saying man and woman are created together in harmony with equal dignity. Regrettably, misleading interpretations about sin, which are not entirely overcome, contribute to giving the women a  subservient role to that of man, with few places in society.

In the Gospels Jesus performs a real and true revolution: he defends an adulterous woman from death by lapidation; he stops to talk to a Samaritan woman – Samaritans were deemed as “heretics” -; has amongst his dear friends following him several women…not to mention the role of Mary, the Mother of God, and that the Resurrected appears first to two women, who become the first announcers of Easter. But it was the Apostle Paul who, despite his equalitarianism vision of the world – “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female — for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3,28) – to operate resizing: “I want however you to know that head of each man is Christ, and head of the woman is the man, the head of Christ is God. The man should not cover his head because he is the image and glory of God, the woman instead is the glory of man. Indeed man does not proceed from woman, but woman from man; neither man was created for the woman, but the woman for man”. However he recognises “however, in God, neither the woman is without man, neither the man is without a woman; just as the woman comes from man, likewise man is born from woman; everything comes from God”. Certainly the rigid farisaic upbringing and contacts with pagan populations who – no doubt – in Paul’s eyes were displaying very libertine habits, heavily influenced the position on the woman, affecting her role in the Church. An interesting article of the biblical scholar Marinella Perroni reinterprets the alleged misogyny of Paul and explains how the Apostle of the Gentiles appreciated and took advantaged of the  women for his apostolate (

In the millenary continuing history of the Church, until now, many are the examples of women who have been able to impose themselves through holiness, the witness, and the courage of their lives. Often with origins, vocations and very different paths. We think of Matilda of Canossa, a noble woman’s, who helped the Pope at the time of the investiture controversy; Monica, mystic mother of Augustine; Hildegard of Bingen, a benedictine sister and prolific writer; Clare of Assisi, so close to St. Francis; Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena, the first women proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1970; and many others, up to the modern and contemporary times, like Teresa of Lisieux, Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Gianna Beretta Beretta and Mother Teresa of Calcutta – the latter will be canonized by Pope Francis in September.

The recent popes have shown to understand the importance of the role of women in the Church and have taken significant steps in the journey towards full ecclesial development of the “feminine genius”. But in this, as on other issues, the Church takes its time. The problem now lies in a part of the Church institution that has fossilized into a rigid and conservative apparatus, often experienced as a place of power, which does not precisely address the problem of how to best engage women for the good of the Church. Or even worse, suffering from misogyny, as indeed also a part of our society.

But it is also true that many situations may appear to us different from the way they are because we do not look ahead and do not analyze the issue with greater breath and complexity of views.

In many churches of Europe where the decrease  in vocations and more generally the crisis of faith are more serious, women still play even more roles of responsibility. For example, helping the priests – who administer various parishes across the territory precisely for lack of priests – to open and administer the churches, lead the prayer, even distribute the Eucharist. This also takes place in countries outside Europe, for slighly different reasons – big numbers and immense, often poorly connected areas. Altar girls, hardly seen in Italy and especially in Rome until not too long ago  especially when the Pope would celebrate Mass in a parish, had already been normal practice for some time in other countries, especially in the North of Europe. There are many women, even secular, engaged in several departments of the local church and  assisting the numerous religious orders through associations of the faithful in several parts of the world …

Of course, some questions are legitimate. Why is it that Superiors of great religious orders cannot participate in the conclave and elect the Pope, or at least be part of the meetings before the conclave is held? Would not it be possible for qualified women to be part of the committee that advises the Pope on the reform of the Curia, without having to become appointed cardinals? Such proposal, of women being appointed cardinals, Pope Francis does not seem to have taken into account as he noticed a sort of clericalism: commenting he said that “women must be valued, not clericalized”.

Our response to these issues and questions is to look beyond, returning to the Church of Pentecost and of the Council. The Church of the beginnings described in the Acts of the Apostles tells us that we must be guided by the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit is life for each of us.

Part of the Church thinks of itself in narrow terms, of categories, of past, without being enlightened by the Spirit who gives life. The present and the future await creative responses, which put man and woman, different and complementary images of God, to the service of the Church and the world. If we talk according to the Spirit, our word must be both masculine and feminine. We require a Church where the sensitivity and the intelligence of the woman is also at its full service even in processes involving consultation, decision and governance. But we must not fall into clericalism, the careerism, or – as the Pope recently still warned- in feminism in the Church. It is essential instead to implement the indications of the Second Vatican Council and deal with this issue within that of the need for a wider participation of the laity in the Church’s life. Starting with the problem of theological and biblical formation which, at least in Italy, is still mainly addressed to priests and religious in terms of curricula and organization, which does not always facilitate the participation of the laity. And riconsidering the areas of services provided by priests and religious in the Church. Should they guide all ecclesial congregations? Could more space be given to lay professors in pontifical universities? Would it be inappropriate, for example, to entrust some offices to lay people, allowing more lay people to teach, and leave to priests (in light of the crisis of vocations) the ministry with the people and the administration of the sacraments? It is true also that those in charge of dicasteries and offices of the Church are helped by laity, including experts as consultants, and many consultants are lay people, including women. The number of women who teach religious subjects is also increasing, even biblical and theological subject matters, as well as those in charge of departments and faculties in pontifical universities, and probably are not an exception in many countries of Europe, perhaps even out of Europe.

Let’s us not fall into temptation of viewing the Church as a monolithic institution, often with Western criteria, detached from a specific cultural or historical context. What matters is the full participation of women and the laity in the Church, rather than equal roles for man and women in the Church. Being well aware that Christian anthropologic vision of man and woman by God does not use our common sociological, psychological, historical parameters …

Perhaps what we should work on is a greater participation of the church community from “the bottom”. To enable the Church and the Pope to benefit from the contribution of the laity, some of them having a solid theological preparation and actively engaged in different realities of the Church, often at the forefront at various levels of the pastoral life. But this applies not only to the laity (and women), it also applies to priests and religious. This is why we believe one should look beyond, with a much broader perspective, rather than thinking in terms that are likely to present the issue as trendy, ill suited to the exercise of the ministries in the Church. “They were all together in one place” (At 2,1). A few days ago, the Church celebrated Pentecost. In the Upper Room, the meeting place of the washing of tha feet and the institution of the Eucharist they were all together. Certainly the fear united them, yet they were all together. In the get-together at Pentecost the Spirit bursts and makes all things new. The Church must always start from this togetherness allowing to be guided by the Spirit, because this is the only way to allow the presence of the Risen Christ. Let’ us not betray the Risen One and let not drop the breath of the Spirit. Fruits rather than good intentions will bear witness to what we all – men and women, laity, clergy and religious – have done for the Church.

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A miracle in the Church: Pope Francis

Recalling thoughts, hopes and prayers of the day of the election

Monica Romano
“In my life, this is the first time I have witnessed a real miracle with my own eyes”. I still recall so clearly the words of my spiritual Father and earlier parish priest – fr. Enrico Ghezzi – when Pope Francis was elected. We were all understandably very touched and felt emotional about the new Pope’s election. But at least for me this time was a bit different from my only previous time (I was too little to remember the earlier elections of “the two John Paul”). The Church was coming out from such a difficult time that ended up with Pope Benedict’s resignation – certainly because of his old age, but possibly also due to the issues the Pope had to face, such as the betrayal of his closest collaborators and an institution that because of the behaviours of individual, often authoritative, representatives had seen heavily affected its credibility and the trust of the people.  

I still recall the moment of the election so vividly. Guessing (and hoping) from the name pronounced in Latin by Cardinal Touran and not understood clearly because of the underlying translation (I was not in Italy hence followed the event from a foreign TV programme) that the new Pope was the archbishop of Buenos Aires – the one I had heard was a simple and humble pastor, the one that according to some “speculations” was “the candidate” of Cardinal Martini on the occasion of previous papal election – literally made me jump from the chair. And the second (real) jump was while listening to the name he chose. Just a few minutes before, by messaging with a friend who was in Rome, we were asking to ourselves what name the new Pope would choose. We wrote a couple of names we hoped for and when typing “Francis” I clearly recall my friend stigmatizing: “Magari, that is impossible”.

Instead, we were once again surprised and made happy by God. Once more we realized that what the Gospel teaches is the truth: “Nothing is impossible to God”. I cannot forget the mixed feeling of expectation and preoccupation that I and some of the people closest to me had been going through over the previous weeks following Pope Benedict’s resignation. Our response and way of living that “waiting time” was praying. I remember that for several weeks  after Pope Benedict’s resignation I used to pray at any time (even unusual time) I could, whenever I had  a “gap” during the day – for example while preparing myself before getting out in the morning or while seated in the car or on the plane….And so did the many people spiritually close to me – including my dearest grandmother, who kept telling me for some time after Pope Francis’ election: I prayed so hard for the new pope. What were we praying for? We prayed to “get” a holy person and a pastor close to his people. It seems we have been heard.
I also recall that I immediately understood that the times of a “cumbersome” centrality placed on the institution of the pope I had been used to since my childhood, particularly during the pontificate of John Paul II, had gone. I did not overlook the way Francis referred to himself to the people as the “bishop of Rome”, while only mentioning the vicar of his “new” dioceses –  the Church that “presides in charity”.  I felt and hoped that like for the choice of his name it was programmatic. And it was certainly striking that he presented himself for the first time to the people only dressed with the white papal vest, with no other liturgical vestments or paraments, except for the stola put on shortly while blessing the huge mass of people that gathered in St. Peter’s square. 

After the initial “mild” reaction from the square when the Habemus Papam formula was pronounced (probably because most of the people were not aware of who was “Georgium Marium cardinalem Bergoglio”), the warmth and emotion became tangible among the people at his gestures and words. Especially when Pope Francis invited the faithful to walk together – both “the pastor and the people” – in “fraternity, love and mutual trust”. And when he asked the people to receive the “prayer of you over me” and bowed in silence for a few minutes. But also when in blessing those in the square and who was connected through the modern communication technologies, he indicated that the blessing was also for “the whole world and all men and women of good willingness”. The spirit of the conciliar Church was felt strongly among many of us. Again we had another hope, that the new Pope would genuinely embrace, apply, and put forward the indications of the Second Vatican Council.
We believe that these are the first seeds of Pope Francis. By recalling them after three years, we happily feel that a new Church was born and has been flourishing from those seeds. What people like me, especially old pastors that dedicated their whole life to the Gospel and the Church, has been believing and hoping for – a Church of poverty, charity, openness and mercy, the Church of the Council – was realised and is being realised by this pastor, who “came from the other side of the world”. Let us pray for Pope Francis, as he keeps up asking us, everyday, regularly, for his peace and intentions. The power of prayer is strong and if all of us join our prayers, we will hopefully be able to help him sustain his mission – a mission of love, dedication, sacrifice and witness.