Read­ing Time: 21 minutes

Paul VI Audi­ence Hall
Thursday, 12 May 2016

First ques­tion

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

Pope Fran­cis, you said that “the fem­in­ine geni­us is needed in all expres­sions in the life of soci­ety… and in the Church”, and yet women are excluded from decision-mak­ing pro­cesses in the Church, espe­cially at the highest levels, and from preach­ing at the Euchar­ist. An import­ant obstacle to the Church’s full embrace of “fem­in­ine geni­us” is the bond that decision-mak­ing pro­cesses and preach­ing both have with priestly ordin­a­tion. Do you see a way of sep­ar­at­ing lead­er­ship roles and preach­ing at the Euchar­ist from ordin­a­tion, so that our Church can be more open to receiv­ing the geni­us of women in the very near future?

Pope Fran­cis

We must dis­tin­guish between vari­ous things here. The ques­tion is linked to func­tion­al­ity, it is closely linked to func­tion­al­ity, while the role of women goes bey­ond this. But I will answer the ques­tion now, then let us speak… I have seen that there are oth­er ques­tions that go bey­ond this.

It is true that women are excluded from decision-mak­ing pro­cesses in the Church: not excluded, but the pres­ence of women is very weak there, in decision-mak­ing pro­cesses. We must move for­ward. For example – truly I see no dif­fi­culty – I believe that in the Pon­ti­fic­al Coun­cil for Justice and Peace the sec­ret­ari­at is man­aged by a woman reli­gious. Anoth­er was pro­posed and I appoin­ted her but she pre­ferred not to accept as she had to go else­where to do oth­er work in her con­greg­a­tion. We must move for­ward, because for many aspects of decision-mak­ing pro­cesses ordin­a­tion is not neces­sary. It is not neces­sary. In the reform of the Apostol­ic Con­sti­tu­tion Pas­tor Bonus, speak­ing of Dicas­ter­ies, when there is no jur­is­dic­tion deriv­ing from ordin­a­tion – that is, pas­tor­al jur­is­dic­tion – it is not writ­ten that it can be a woman, I don’t know about a head of a Dicastery, but… For example, for migrants: a woman could go to the Dicastery for Migrants. And when it is neces­sary – now that migrants fall under the jur­is­dic­tion of a Dicastery, it will be for the Pre­fect to give this per­mis­sion. But ordin­ar­ily, in the exe­cu­tion of a decision-mak­ing pro­cess, this can be done. For me the pro­cess lead­ing to decisions is very import­ant: not only the exe­cu­tion, but also the devel­op­ment, and there­fore that women, wheth­er con­sec­rated or lay, become part of the reflec­tion pro­cess and part of the dis­cus­sion. Because women look at life through their own eyes and we men are not able to look at life in this way. The way of view­ing a prob­lem, of see­ing any­thing, is dif­fer­ent for a woman com­pared to a man. They must be com­ple­ment­ary, and in con­sulta­tions it is import­ant that there are women.

I exper­i­enced a prob­lem in Buenos Aires: look­ing at it with the priests’ coun­cil – there­fore all men – it was well handled, but then look­ing at the mat­ter with a group of reli­gious and lay women brought great bene­fit, and this helped the decision by offer­ing a com­ple­ment­ary view. This is really neces­sary! And I think we must move for­ward on this; then the decision-mak­ing pro­cess can be examined.

There is also the prob­lem of preach­ing at the Euchar­ist­ic Cel­eb­ra­tion. There is no prob­lem for a woman – reli­gious or lay – to preach in the Liturgy of the Word. There is no prob­lem. But at the Euchar­ist­ic Cel­eb­ra­tion there is a litur­gic­al-dog­mat­ic prob­lem, because it is one cel­eb­ra­tion – the Liturgy of the Word and the Euchar­ist­ic Liturgy, there is unity between them – and the one who presides over it is Jesus Christ. The priest or bish­op who presides does so in the per­son of Jesus Christ. It is a theo­lo­gic­al-litur­gic­al real­ity. In that situ­ation, there being no women’s ordin­a­tion, they can­not preside. But it is pos­sible to study and explain fur­ther what I have just said very quickly and rather simply.

With lead­er­ship, on the oth­er hand, there is no prob­lem: we must go for­ward in that area, prudently, but seek­ing solutions…

Now there are two tempta­tions here, against which we must guard.

The first is fem­in­ism: the woman’s role in the Church is not one of fem­in­ism; it is a right! It is a right as a bap­tised per­son, with the cha­r­isms and the gifts that the Spir­it has giv­en. We must not fall into fem­in­ism, because this would reduce a woman’s import­ance. I do not see, at this moment, a great danger of this among women reli­gious. I do not see that. Per­haps in the past, but in gen­er­al it is not present.

The oth­er danger, a very strong tempta­tion I have spoken of sev­er­al times, is cler­ic­al­ism. And this is very strong. Let us con­sider that today more than sixty per­cent of par­ishes – of dio­ceses I don’t know, but only a little few­er – do not have a fin­ance or a pas­tor­al coun­cil. What does this mean? It means that the par­ish or dio­cese is led with a cler­ic­al spir­it, by the priest alone, and that it does not imple­ment syn­odal­ity in the par­ish, in the dio­cese, which is not a nov­elty under this Pope. No! It is a mat­ter of Can­on Law: the par­ish priest is obliged to have a coun­cil of laypeople, for and with lay men, women and women reli­gious for pas­tor­al min­istry and fin­an­cial affairs. And they do not do this. This is the danger of cler­ic­al­ism in the Church today. We must go ahead 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 example, cler­ic­al­ism is very strong and pro­nounced. Laypeople do not know what to do, if they do not ask the priest. It is very strong. And for this reas­on, aware­ness of the laity’s role has been very delayed. This is saved just a little through pop­u­lar piety, since the prot­ag­on­ist here is the people, and the people have done things as they thought best. Priests have not taken much interest in this regard; some have not viewed this phe­nomen­on of pop­u­lar piety favour­ably. But cler­ic­al­ism is a neg­at­ive atti­tude. And it requires com­pli­city: it is some­thing done by two parties, just as it takes two to dance the tango… That is: the priest wants to cler­ic­al­ize the lay­man, the lay­wo­man, the man or woman reli­gious, and the layper­son asks to be cler­ic­al­ized, because it is easi­er that way. And this is odd. In Buenos Aires I exper­i­enced this on three or four occa­sions: a good priest came to me and said, “I have an excel­lent lay­man in my par­ish: he does this and that, he knows how to organ­ise things, he gets things done; he is a man of real integ­rity… Shall we make him a dea­con?” Or rather, shall we “cler­ic­al­ize” him? “No! Let him remain a lay­man. Don’t make him a dea­con”. This is import­ant. You have this exper­i­ence that cler­ic­al­ism often hampers things from devel­op­ing correctly.

I will ask – and per­haps I will get this to the Pres­id­ent – the Con­greg­a­tion for Divine Wor­ship to explain prop­erly and in depth what I said rather briefly on preach­ing in the Euchar­ist­ic Cel­eb­ra­tion, as I do not have suf­fi­cient theo­logy or clar­ity to explain it now. But we must dis­tin­guish clearly: preach­ing at a Liturgy of the Word is one thing, and this can be done; but the Euchar­ist­ic Cel­eb­ra­tion is some­thing else: here there is a dif­fer­ent mys­tery. It is the mys­tery of Christ’s pres­ence, and the priest or the bish­op cel­eb­ratesin per­sona Christi.

For lead­er­ship it is clear… Yes, I think this could be my gen­er­al answer to the first ques­tion. Let us have a look at the second question.

Second ques­tion

The role of con­sec­rated women in the Church

Con­sec­rated women already do much work with the poor and the mar­gin­al­ized, they teach cat­ech­ism, they accom­pany the sick and the dying, they dis­trib­ute Com­mu­nion; in many coun­tries they lead the com­mun­al pray­ers in the absence of a priest and in those cir­cum­stances they give a homily. In the Church there is the office of the per­man­ent diac­on­ate, but it is open only to men, mar­ried or not. What pre­vents the Church from includ­ing women among per­man­ent dea­cons, as was the case in the prim­it­ive Church? Why not con­sti­tute an offi­cial com­mis­sion to study the mat­ter? Can you give us an example of where you see the pos­sib­il­ity of bet­ter integ­ra­tion of women and con­sec­rated women in the life of the Church?

Pope Fran­cis

This ques­tion goes in the dir­ec­tion of “doing”: con­sec­rated women already do much work with the poor, they do many things … “doing”. And it touches on the prob­lem of the per­man­ent diac­on­ate. Some might say that the “per­man­ent dea­con­esses” in the life of the Church are moth­ers-in-law [laughter]. Indeed this exis­ted in early times: there was a begin­ning… I remem­ber that it was a theme which inter­ested me con­sid­er­ably when I came to Rome for meet­ings, and I stayed at the Domus Paolo VI; there was a good Syr­i­an theo­lo­gian there, who had pro­duced a crit­ic­al edi­tion and trans­la­tion of the Hymns of Eph­r­em the Syr­i­an. 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 were these dea­con­esses? Were they ordained or not? The Coun­cil of Chalcedon (in 451) speaks about this, but it is some­what unclear. What was the role of dea­con­esses in those times? It seems – I was told by this man, who is now dead but who was a good pro­fess­or, wise and eru­dite – it seems that the role of the dea­con­esses was to help in the bap­tism of women, with their immer­sion; for the sake of decor­um they bap­tized them; and also anoin­ted the body of women, in bap­tism. And anoth­er curi­ous fact: when there was a judge­ment on a mar­riage because a hus­band beat his wife and she went to the bish­op to lay a com­plaint, dea­con­esses were respons­ible for inspect­ing the bruises left on the woman’s body from her husband’s blows, and for inform­ing the bish­op. This I remem­ber. There are vari­ous pub­lic­a­tions on the diac­on­ate in the Church, but it is not clear how it was in the past. I think I will ask the Con­greg­a­tion for the Doc­trine of the Faith to refer me to some stud­ies on this theme, because I have answered you only on the basis of what I heard from this priest, who was a learned and good research­er, on the per­man­ent diac­on­ate. In addi­tion, I would like to con­sti­tute an offi­cial com­mis­sion to study the ques­tion: I think it will be good for the Church to cla­ri­fy this point; I agree, and I will speak [to the Con­greg­a­tion] in order to do some­thing of this nature.

Then you say: “We agree with you, Holy Fath­er, that you have on sev­er­al occa­sions raised the issue of the need for a more incis­ive role for women in decision-mak­ing roles in the Church”. This is clear. “Can you give me an example of where you see the pos­sib­il­ity of bet­ter integ­ra­tion of women and of con­sec­rated women in the life of the Church?” I will say some­thing after­wards, because I have seen that there is a gen­er­al ques­tion. In the con­sulta­tions of the Con­greg­a­tion for Reli­gious, in the assem­blies, women reli­gious must be present: this is true. In con­sulta­tions on so many prob­lems which get presen­ted, con­sec­rated women must be present. Anoth­er thing: improved integ­ra­tion. At the moment spe­cif­ic examples do not come to mind, but there is still what I said earli­er: seek­ing out the judge­ment of con­sec­rated women, because women see things with an ori­gin­al­ity dif­fer­ent to that of men; and this is enrich­ing, in con­sulta­tion, and decision-mak­ing, and in practice.

This work that you carry out with the poor, the mar­gin­al­ized, teach­ing cat­ech­ism, accom­pa­ny­ing the sick and the dying, this is very “mater­nal” work, where the mater­nity of the Church is expressed the most. But there are men who do the same, and that’s fine: con­sec­rated men, hos­pit­al­ler orders… and that is important.

So then, with regard to the diac­on­ate, yes, I think that it is use­ful to have a com­mis­sion that cla­ri­fies this area prop­erly, espe­cially with regard to the early times of the Church.

With regard to improved integ­ra­tion, I repeat what I said earlier.

If there is some­thing to needs to be explained in more detail, please ask me now: are there any fur­ther ques­tions on what I have said, that may help me to think? Let’s go on.

Third Ques­tion

The role of the Inter­na­tion­al Uni­on of Super­i­ors General

What role could the Inter­na­tion­al Uni­on of Super­i­ors Gen­er­al play, in order to have a say in the think­ing of the Church, a word that is listened to, giv­en that it con­veys the voices of 2,000 insti­tutes of women reli­gious? How is it pos­sible that we are quite often for­got­ten and not included as par­ti­cipants, for example in the Gen­er­al Assembly of the Con­greg­a­tion for the Insti­tutes of Con­sec­rated Life and Soci­et­ies of Apostol­ic Life [CICLSAL], where con­sec­rated life is dis­cussed? Can the Church afford to con­tin­ue speak­ing about us, instead of speak­ing with us?

Pope Fran­cis

Sis­ter Ter­esina, have a little patience because it just came to mind what had escaped me regard­ing the oth­er ques­tion, on “what women’s con­sec­rated life can do”. It is a point which you must take up again, which the Church too must look at again. Your work, my work and the work of all of us, is one of ser­vice. Very often I find con­sec­rated women who per­form a labour of ser­vitude and not of ser­vice. It is some­what dif­fi­cult to explain, because I would not like to con­sider con­crete cases, which would not be good, since no one really knows the cir­cum­stances. Let us con­sider a par­ish priest, a priest who we could almost cer­tainly ima­gine say­ing: “No, no, my pres­by­tery is in the hands of two sis­ters” – “Are they the ones who run it?” – “Yes, yes!” – “What apostolate do they have: cat­eches­is?” – “No, no, only that [run­ning the house]!” No! This is ser­vitude! Tell me, dear Par­ish Priest, are there no good women in the city, who need work? Take on one or two and let them do that ser­vice. Let these two sis­ters go to the schools, into the neigh­bour­hoods, with the sick, with the poor. This is the cri­terion: a work that involves ser­vice and not ser­vitude! When you Super­i­ors are asked for some­thing that is more ser­vitude than ser­vice, have the cour­age to say ‘no’. This is a rather help­ful point, because when a con­sec­rated woman is asked to per­form a work of ser­vitude, the life and dig­nity of that woman are demeaned. Her voca­tion is ser­vice: ser­vice to the Church. But not servitude!

Now I’ll respond to Ter­esina: “What, in your opin­ion, is the place of women’s apostol­ic reli­gious life with­in the Church? What would the Church be lack­ing if there were no longer women reli­gious?” Mary would be miss­ing on the day of Pente­cost! There is no Church without Mary! There is no Pente­cost without Mary! But Mary was there, even though she may not have spoken… I have said this, but I like to repeat it. The con­sec­rated woman is an icon of the Church, 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 were sent out to preach. But not of the Church or of Mary. When I say this I want to make you reflect on the fact that “she” the Church is fem­in­ine; the Church is woman: it is not “he” the Church, it is “she” the Church. But she is a woman mar­ried to Jesus Christ; she has her Bride­groom, who is Jesus Christ. And when a bish­op is chosen for a dio­cese, the Bish­op – in the name of Christ – mar­ries that loc­al Church. The Church is woman! And a woman’s con­sec­ra­tion makes her the very icon of the Church and the icon of Our Lady. And this we men can­not do. This will help you to deep­en, from this theo­lo­gic­al found­a­tion, a great role in the Church. I hope this does not elude you.

I find myself in com­plete agree­ment with the con­clu­sion of the third ques­tion. The Church: the Church is you, is all of us. The hier­archy – let us say – of the Church must speak about you, but firstly and presently she must speak with you. This is cer­tain. You must be present in the CICLSAL. Yes, yes! I will com­mu­nic­ate this to the Pre­fect: you must be present in the Assembly! It is clear, because to speak about someone who is absent is not even evan­gel­ic­al: one must be able to hear, to listen to what is being thought, and then act togeth­er. I agree. I did not ima­gine such sep­ar­a­tion, hon­estly. Thank you for hav­ing said it so cour­ageously and with that smile.

A light-hearted thought comes to mind: you said this with that smile, which in Pied­mont is called the mugna qua­cia [with the smile of the miller’s façade: an inno­cent expres­sion]. Well done! Yes, you are right about this; I think it is easy to change. I shall speak about it with the Pre­fect. “But this Gen­er­al Assembly will not be speak­ing about sis­ters; it will be speak­ing about some­thing else…” – “We need to hear the sis­ters because they have anoth­er way of look­ing at things”. That is what I was say­ing before: it is import­ant that you always be included… Thank you for the question.

Do I need to cla­ri­fy this? Is some­thing fur­ther needed? Is it clear?

Remem­ber this care­fully: what would the Church lack if women reli­gious did not exist? Mary would be miss­ing on the day of Pente­cost. Women reli­gious are the icon of the Church and of Mary. The Church is fem­in­ine, the bride of Jesus Christ.

Fourth Ques­tion

The obstacles we encounter with­in the Church as con­sec­rated women

Beloved Holy Fath­er, many insti­tutes are facing the chal­lenge of innov­at­ing their way of life and their struc­tures by revis­ing their Con­sti­tu­tions. This is prov­ing to be dif­fi­cult as we find ourselves obstruc­ted by Can­on Law. Do you fore­see any changes to Can­on Law in order facil­it­ate this process?

Moreover, young people today have dif­fi­culty think­ing about a per­man­ent com­mit­ment, be it in mar­riage or reli­gious life. Can we be open some­how to tem­por­ary commitments?

And anoth­er aspect: in car­ry­ing out our min­istry in solid­ar­ity with the poor and the mar­gin­al­ized, we are often mis­taken for being social act­iv­ists or as if we were tak­ing polit­ic­al pos­i­tions. Some eccle­si­al author­it­ies would prefer that we rather be mys­tics and less apostol­ic. What value ought cer­tain sec­tors of the Church hier­archy give to the apostol­ic con­sec­rated life and to women in particular?

Pope Fran­cis

Firstly, the changes that need to hap­pen in order to take on new chal­lenges: you spoke about innov­a­tion, innov­a­tion in the pos­it­ive sense if I under­stood cor­rectly, new things to come. In this the Church is an expert, for she has had to change so very, very much through­out his­tory. Yet in every change dis­cern­ment is needed, and dis­cern­ment can­not be accom­plished without pray­er. How does dis­cern­ment hap­pen? Pray­er, dia­logue, then shared dis­cern­ment. One must ask for the gift of dis­cern­ment, to know how to dis­cern. For example, a busi­ness­man has to make changes in his busi­ness: he makes con­crete assess­ments and what his con­science tells him to do, he does. In our lives anoth­er per­son plays a role: the Holy Spir­it. In order to make a change we must eval­u­ate all con­crete cir­cum­stances; this is true. But in order to engage in dis­cern­ment with the Holy Spir­it what is needed is pray­er, dia­logue and shared dis­cern­ment. In this area I believe that we – and by this I mean priests as well – are not well formed in the dis­cern­ment of situ­ations, and so we must try to exper­i­ence those things and those people who can explain well to us how to dis­cern: a good spir­itu­al fath­er who knows these things well and can explain them to us, which is not a simple “for or against”, or mak­ing a sum­mary, and then pro­gress­ing. No, it is some­thing more than this. Every change which has to be done requires enter­ing into this pro­cess of dis­cern­ment. And this will give you great­er free­dom, more free­dom! As for Can­on Law, there is no prob­lem. Can­on Law in the last cen­tury was changed – if I am not mis­taken – twice: in 1917 and then under Saint John Paul II. Small changes can be made, and are made. But these two changes were of the entire Code. The Code provides a dis­cip­lin­ary aid, an aid for the sal­va­tion of souls in all of this: it is the jur­idic­al aid of the Church in all pro­cesses, in so many things, but last cen­tury it was totally changed, re-done, twice.

And so, parts of it can be changed. Two months ago a request arrived ask­ing for a can­on to be changed; I don’t remem­ber the details. I stud­ied it and the Sec­ret­ary of State car­ried out the prop­er con­sulta­tions and every­one was in agree­ment that yes, this must be changed for the great­er good, and so it was changed. The Code is an instru­ment; this is very import­ant. But I must insist: nev­er make a change without a pro­cess of dis­cern­ment – per­son­al and com­mun­al. And this will give you free­dom, for you place the Holy Spir­it there in the midst of the change. This is what Saint Paul did, Saint Peter too, when he felt the Lord urging him to bap­tize the pagans. When we read the book of the Acts of the Apostles we won­der at so much change, so much change… it is the Spir­it! This is strik­ing: in the book of the Acts of the Apostles the prot­ag­on­ists are not just the Apostles, but also the Spir­it. “The Spir­it moved him to do that”; “the Spir­it said to Philip: go here and there, find the min­is­ter in charge of the treas­ury and bap­tize him”; “the Spir­it acts”, “the Spir­it says: no, do not come here” – it is the Spir­it. It is the Spir­it who gave the Apostles the cour­age to make this revolu­tion­ary change to bap­tize the pagans without fol­low­ing Jew­ish cat­eches­is or Jew­ish practice.

Of interest too is the fact that in the first chapters we find the let­ter which the Apostles sent to the pagan con­verts after the Coun­cil of Jer­u­s­alem. It tells of all that they did: “The Holy Spir­it and us, we have decided this”. This is an example of their dis­cern­ment. Every change, do it like this, with the Holy Spir­it. That is: dis­cern­ment, pray­er and also con­crete eval­u­ation of situations.

And for the Code there is no prob­lem; for it is an instrument.

Regard­ing the per­man­ent com­mit­ment of young people: we live in a “cul­ture of the eph­em­er­al”. A bish­op told me that some time ago a young uni­ver­sity stu­dent came to him – he had fin­ished uni­ver­sity, 23 or 24 years old – and said to him: “I would like to become a priest, but only for ten years”. That is the cul­ture of the eph­em­er­al. With mar­riage cases it is the same thing. “I will marry you as long as love lasts, and then it’s ‘good-bye’”. But that is love taken in the hedon­ist­ic sense, in the sense of today’s cul­ture. Obvi­ously, these mar­riages are null; they are not val­id. They have no aware­ness of the per­man­ence of a com­mit­ment. Mar­riage is not like that. Read about the prob­lem in the first chapters of the Apostol­ic Exhorta­tion Amor­is Laeti­tia, and read about how to pre­pare for mar­riage. Someone said to me: “I don’t under­stand this: to become a priest you have to study, to pre­pare for eight years or so. And then, if it doesn’t go well, or if you fall in love with a pretty girl, the Church gives you a pass: go, get mar­ried, begin a new life. To get mar­ried – which is for life, which is “for” life – the pre­par­a­tion in many dio­ceses con­sists of three or four meet­ings… But this is not adequate! How can a par­ish priest attest that these two are pre­pared for mar­riage, in this cul­ture of the pro­vi­sion­al, with just four con­ver­sa­tions? This is a very ser­i­ous prob­lem. In con­sec­rated life, what has always struck me – in a pos­it­ive way – is the intu­ition of Saint Vin­cent de Paul: he saw that the Sis­ters of Char­ity had such heavy work, so “dan­ger­ous”, on the front lines, that every year they had to renew their vows. Just for one year. But he did this not as an expres­sion of the cul­ture of the eph­em­er­al, but of a cha­r­ism: in order to give free­dom. I think that tem­por­ary vows facil­it­ate this in con­sec­rated life. And, I don’t know, you can be the judges, but I would be in favour of pro­long­ing tem­por­ary vows a little, because of this cul­ture of the pro­vi­sion­al that young people exper­i­ence these days: it is a kind of pro­long­ing the engage­ment before mar­riage! This is important.

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

Requests for money in our loc­al Churches. The prob­lem of money is a very ser­i­ous prob­lem, both in con­sec­rated life and in the dio­ces­an Church. We must nev­er for­get that the dev­il enters “through our pock­ets”: the pock­ets of the bish­op and the pock­ets of the con­greg­a­tion. This touches on the prob­lem of poverty, which I will speak about later. But greed for money is the first step towards cor­rup­tion in a par­ish, in a dio­cese, in a con­greg­a­tion of con­sec­rated life: it is the first step. I think that in this regard pay­ment for the sac­ra­ments has taken place. Look, if someone asks you for this [pay­ment], then report the incid­ent. Sal­va­tion is free. God sent us this freely; sal­va­tion is like an “over­flow­ing of gra­tu­it­ous­ness”. Sal­va­tion doesn’t cost any­thing; sac­ra­ments don’t cost any­thing. Is this clear? I know, I have seen this kind of cor­rup­tion in my life. I remem­ber one case, when I had just been appoin­ted bish­op. I had the poorest area of Buenos Aires, divided into four vicari­ates. There were many migrants from Amer­ic­an coun­tries there, and often when they came to get mar­ried the par­ish priests would say, “These people have no bap­tism cer­ti­fic­ate”. And when they asked for them from their coun­tries they were told – and I remem­ber one case – “Yes, but first send a hun­dred dol­lars and then I will send it to you”.

I spoke with the Car­din­al, and the Car­din­al spoke with the Bish­op of the place… But in the mean­time people were able to marry without their bap­tism cer­ti­fic­ate, with an oath from their par­ents or god­par­ents. This is pay­ing, not only for the sac­ra­ment but also for cer­ti­fic­ates. I recall one time in Buenos Aires a young man came to ask for a nihil obstat to marry in anoth­er par­ish, a simple thing. The sec­ret­ary told him: “Yes, if you come by tomor­row it will be here, and it will cost a cer­tain price”, quite a sum. But that should be a ser­vice: it is a ques­tion of cer­ti­fy­ing and com­pil­ing data. And this man – he was a law­yer, young, good, very devout, a very good Cath­ol­ic – he came to me and said, “Now what must I do?”. “Go tomor­row and say that you have sent the cheque to the Arch­bish­op, and that the Arch­bish­op will give her the cheque”. The trade in money.

But here we touch upon a ser­i­ous prob­lem, which is the prob­lem of poverty. Let me say some­thing to you: when a reli­gious insti­tute – and this applies in oth­er situ­ations too – when a reli­gious insti­tute feels that it is dying, feels that it no longer has the abil­ity to attract new mem­bers, feels that per­haps the time for which the Lord had chosen that con­greg­a­tion has passed, there is the tempta­tion to greed. Why? Because they think, “At least we have money for our old age”. This is ser­i­ous. And what is the solu­tion which the Church gives? To unite vari­ous insti­tutes with sim­il­ar cha­r­isms, and to carry on. But money is nev­er, nev­er a solu­tion to spir­itu­al prob­lems. It is a neces­sary aid, but just that. Saint Igna­tius said that poverty is the “moth­er” and “wall” of reli­gious life. It enables us to grow in reli­gious life like a moth­er, and pro­tects it. Dec­ad­ence begins when poverty is lack­ing. I remem­ber, in the oth­er dio­cese, when a very import­ant col­lege of sis­ters had to ren­ov­ate their house because it was old; it had to be done, and they did a good job. But at that time – I am talk­ing about the years ’93, ’94 more or less – they said, “Let’s have all the com­forts, a room with a private bath­room, and everything, and even a tele­vi­sion…”. In that col­lege, which was so import­ant, from 2 to 4 in the after­noon you could nev­er find a sis­ter in the col­lege: they were all in their rooms watch­ing a soap opera! Because there was a lack of poverty, and this leads to the com­fort­able life, to dreams… It is an example, maybe the only one in the world, but it helps us under­stand the danger of too much com­fort, of a lack of poverty or a cer­tain austerity.

[Anoth­er part of the ques­tion, not read but written]

Women reli­gious do not receive a sti­pend for their ser­vices, as priests do. How can we show an attract­ive face to our way of life? How can we find the fin­an­cial resources neces­sary to ful­fil our mission?”

Pope Fran­cis

I will say two things to you. First: see what your cha­r­ism is, the con­tent of your cha­r­ism – every­one has their own – and what the role of poverty is, because there are con­greg­a­tions which call for a very, very strict life of poverty; oth­ers less so, and both types are approved by the Church. Live poverty accord­ing to your cha­r­ism. And then: save! It is prudent to have sav­ings; it is prudent to have good admin­is­tra­tion, per­haps with some invest­ment, that is prudent: for the houses of form­a­tion, to con­tin­ue works for the poor, to man­age schools for the poor, to con­tin­ue apostol­ic works…. A found­a­tion for one’s own con­greg­a­tion: this is what must be done. And just as wealth can harm and cor­rupt a voca­tion, so can des­ti­tu­tion. If poverty becomes des­ti­tu­tion, this too causes harm. There one sees the spir­itu­al prudence of the com­munity in com­mon dis­cern­ment: the bursar informs, every­one speaks about wheth­er it is too much or not. That is moth­erly prudence. But please, do not let yourselves be fooled by friends of the con­greg­a­tion, who then fleece you and take everything from you. I have seen so many cases, or oth­ers have told me about cases in which nuns have lost everything because they trus­ted someone or oth­er, a “great friend of the con­greg­a­tion”! There are many cun­ning people, so many. Prudence means nev­er con­sult­ing only one per­son: when you need some­thing, con­sult vari­ous people, dif­fer­ent ones. The admin­is­tra­tion of assets is a very ser­i­ous respons­ib­il­ity, very ser­i­ous, in con­sec­rated life. If you do not have the means to live, tell the Bish­op. Tell God: “Give us this day our daily bread”, the true bread. But speak with the Bish­op, with the Super­i­or Gen­er­al, with the Con­greg­a­tion for Reli­gious about what is needed, because reli­gious life is a path of poverty, but it is not sui­cide! And this is healthy prudence. Is this clear?

And then, where there are con­flicts over what the loc­al Churches ask of you, you need to pray, to dis­cern and to have the cour­age, when neces­sary, to say “no”; and to have the gen­er­os­ity, when neces­sary, to say “yes”. But you see how dis­cern­ment is neces­sary in every case!

Ques­tion (resumed)

While we carry out our min­istry, we are in solid­ar­ity with the poor and the mar­gin­al­ized, and are often mis­takenly con­sidered as social act­iv­ists, or as if we were assum­ing polit­ic­al stances. Some Church author­it­ies look on our min­istry neg­at­ively, emphas­iz­ing that we should con­cen­trate more on a kind of mys­tic­al life. In these cir­cum­stances, how can we live our proph­et­ic vocation…?”

Answer (resumed)

Yes. All women reli­gious, all con­sec­rated women should live mys­tic­ally, because yours is a mar­riage: your is a voca­tion of mater­nity; it is a voca­tion of act­ing on behalf of Moth­er Church and of Moth­er Mary. But those who tell you this, they think that being a mys­tic is being a mummy, always pray­ing like that… No, no. You have to pray and to work accord­ing to your own cha­r­ism, and when the cha­r­ism leads you to work with refugees, to work with the poor, you should do it, and they will call you “com­mun­ist”; that’s the least of what they will say about you. But you should do it. Because the cha­r­ism leads you to this. In Argen­tina, I remem­ber a sis­ter, she was pro­vin­cial of her con­greg­a­tion. A good woman, and she’s still work­ing… she’s nearly my age, yes. And she works against those who traffic young­sters, who traffic people. I remem­ber, under the mil­it­ary gov­ern­ment in Argen­tina, they wanted to put her in jail, put­ting pres­sure on the Arch­bish­op, put­ting pres­sure on the Pro­vin­cial Super­i­or, before she became pro­vin­cial, “because this woman is a com­mun­ist.” And this woman saved so many girls, so many girls! And yes, that’s the Cross. What did they say about Jesus? That he was Beelze­bub, that he had the power of Beelze­bub. Calumny: be pre­pared for it. If you do good, with pray­er, before God, tak­ing on all the con­sequences of your cha­r­ism and you 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 an icon of the Church, when they do dif­fi­cult things, and are slandered and per­se­cuted. To be per­se­cuted is the last of the Beatitudes. The Lord said: “Blessed are you when you are per­se­cuted, insul­ted”, and all of these things. But here the danger can be: “I get on with my thing”; no, no, listen now: when they per­se­cute you – speak. With your com­munity, with your super­i­or, speak with every­one, ask for advice, dis­cern: once again this word. And this sis­ter of whom I was speak­ing now, one day I found her cry­ing, and she said, “Look at the let­ter I received from Rome – I won’t say from where – what must I do?” – “Are you a daugh­ter of the Church?” “Yes!” – “Do you want to obey the Church?” – “Yes!” – “Answer that you will be obed­i­ent to the Church, then go to your super­i­or, go to your com­munity, go to your bish­op – that was me – and the Church will tell you what to do. But not a let­ter that comes from 12,000 kilo­metres away”. Because someone close to the sister’s enemies had writ­ten, and she had been slandered. Be cour­ageous, but with humil­ity, dis­cern­ment, pray­er, dialogue.


A word of encour­age­ment for us lead­ers, who carry the weight of the day”.

Pope Fran­cis

Do take a rest! Rest, because so many sick­nesses come from a lack of healthy rest, rest in the fam­ily… This is import­ant in order to carry the weight of the day.

You also men­tion here old and sick sis­ters. But these ones are the memory of the insti­tute, these sis­ters are those who have sowed, who have worked, and now are para­lyzed, or very sick, or left to one side. These sis­ters pray for the insti­tute. This is very import­ant, that they feel involved in pray­ing for the Insti­tute. These sis­ters also have very extens­ive exper­i­ence: some have more, some have less. Listen to them! Go to them: “Tell me, sis­ter, what do you think about this, about that?” Let them feel con­sul­ted, and from their wis­dom will come good advice. Be sure of it.

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

The things I have prom­ised to do, I will do. And you pray for me; I will pray for you. Let us go for­ward. Our life is for the Lord, for the Church and for the people, who suf­fer greatly and need the caress of the Fath­er, through you! Thank you.

I would like to sug­gest some­thing: let us fin­ish with the Moth­er. Each one of you, in your own lan­guage, pray the Hail Mary. I will pray it in Spanish.

Hail Mary…


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

Email This Post Email This Post

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!