Pope Francis underlines “the irreplaceable presence” of consecrated women in the Church



I welcome you on the occasion of your 21e general chapter that you have finally succeeded in celebrating. I thank the newly elected Superior General for her salvation. I wish him and the new Council a peaceful and fruitful service. And I join in your gratitude to the superior and the outgoing counselors.

When she wrote to me to request an audience, Sister Nunzia noted precisely the coincidence of your chapter with the opening of the Synod. She wrote: “We will be in communion with the whole Church and with you”. I would like to dwell on that for a moment. First of all, I thank you for your prayer, by which you accompany the beginning of the synodal journey. But I would also like to take advantage of this coincidence to underline that the commitment that we make as a Church in order to grow in synodality is a strong encouragement also for the institutes of consecrated life. In particular, you, consecrated women, are an irreplaceable presence in the great community on the road that is the Church. The image of Jesus comes to mind as he walks the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea: with him are his disciples, and among them many women; we even know the names of some of them (cf. Lk 8, 1-3). I liked what the previous Superior General said: “I am going back to the street”. It’s beautiful, with people. I like to think that you, consecrated women, are an extension of this feminine presence that walked with Jesus and with the Twelve, sharing the mission and making your specific contribution.

And you, Sisters of Charity, in what more specific way do you participate in this journey? What is your original contribution? I leave these questions to you, which naturally do not have ready-made, prepackaged answers. And answers that are not prepackaged are the best. But it seems to me that an answer is contained in the theme of your chapter. Indeed, the theme is: “To start again from Bethany, with the solicitude of Marthe and the listening of Mary”.

In the first place, there is here again the presence of two women, Martha and Mary, with their name and their face. Two disciples who had a very important place in the life of Jesus and the Twelve, we can see it clearly in the Gospels. This confirms that above all, as women and as the baptized, that is to say disciples of Jesus, you are a living presence in the Church, participating in communion and in the mission. We must never forget what is at the base: baptism. Because that’s where the root of everything is. From this root, God made the plant of consecrated life grow in you, according to the charism of Saint Joan Antide.

But the theme of your chapter says more, with these two words: “care” and “listening”. I am sure that if you really manage to live solicitude and listening, following the example of the holy sisters Martha and Mary of Bethany, you will continue to make your precious contribution to the journey of the whole Church. In particular, concern for the poor and listening to the poor. You are masters in this. You are masters, not through words, but through facts, through the history of a large number of your sisters who gave their lives for this, in solicitude and in close listening to the elderly. , sick, marginalized; close to the little ones, the last with the tenderness and compassion of God. This edifies the Church, makes her walk on the way of Christ who is the way of charity. I said that you give a witness of closeness to the little ones, with tenderness and compassion. This is the style of God: closeness, tenderness and compassion. God always does this. To the extent that we do the same, we will be more like pastors like God. Remember this: always closeness, always compassion and always tenderness.

That is why, dear sisters, I thank you with all my heart in the name of the whole Church. May the Virgin Mother and Saint Jeanne-Antide always protect you. I bless you and all your sisters in the world. And you, please keep praying for me, I need it. Thank you !

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