Vatican Aide: Women Spiritual Guides Deserve Credit


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ROME, JULY 23, 2010 ( One of the Church's leading women is calling for wider recognition of the contribution women make, particularly as spiritual guides.

Flaminia Giovannelli, undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, made this proposal Thursday in L'Osservatore Romano.

"My image of the Church is that of John Paul II and Mother Teresa shaking hands," Giovannelli reflected.

The 62-year-old expert in economics and political science spoke of the role that women play in the Church, specifically in women's religious congregations.

"When I think of so many women religious who in their congregations, at various levels, carry out extraordinary roles in a totally independent way, not only to exercise charity but also to manage patrimonies, organize schools and hospitals, and above all to support the spiritual lives of their sisters, enjoying the respect of all because of their admirable work, I think their value is affirmed on its own," she said.

According to Giovannelli, who has been working at the pontifical council since 1974, "women are outstanding in some ecclesial realms, I am thinking especially of spiritual direction."

"If it is essential for the Christian to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, as it reconciles him with God, spiritual direction is of fundamental importance for life: to know rationally that our sin has been forgiven is not always the same as feeling that one is forgiven," she noted.

"How important is the help of someone to recognize and back the plan that the Lord has for each one of us," Giovannelli continued. "And how many times this help comes to us from a woman, precisely because of the sensitivity and affectivity that are hers."

Giovannelli says she believes that giving importance to the task of spiritual support could be at the same time a recognition of the role of women.

At work

On a personal level the pontifical council undersecretary affirms she has "always had the sensation that my ideas are taken into account precisely because they are the ideas of a woman, complementary and hence necessary in order to come to an objective judgment on the issues on which she has been consulted."

"And this is essential," Giovannelli asserted. "It does not take away from the fact that, depending on the organizations and women's level of preparation, facilitated ultimately by their access to more properly ecclesiastical studies, they could also assume roles of greater responsibility.

"And it is quite probable that this will happen."