An open letter to Pope Francis on the anniversary of his election

By María Lía Zervino, 13 March 2021
Pope Francis greets religious sisters during a General Audience in January 2020. Image: Vatican News.


Dear Pope Francis: Thank you for 8 years of challenging and healing the church. But women still deserve more.

Editors’ note: This is the English translation of an open letter to Pope Francis by María Lía Zervino, the president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations.

Dear Pope Francis,

First of all, a big thank you 

Thank you for having given yourself completely in these eight years. From the beginning, you have challenged us with pastoral conversion for the whole Church and you are the first to strive for it. The Second Vatican Council marked a historical event in the life of the Church and from your pontificate there will be a milestone in the intense and long process of implementation of the Council. For this, as we Argentines say, you have “put all the meat on the grill” (“give it all one’s got”).

Thank you for letting yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit, as the Saint of Assisi. You responded to “Francis: go and rebuild my Church” and offered orientation with Evangelii gaudium. You heard the cry of the poorest and of the planet, identifying them in a single crisis, to which you teach us to respond with Laudato si’. And you discerned that the key to facing the problems of our world, plunged in a third world war fought piecemeal, is a society of brothers and sisters, as pointed out in Fratelli tutti and to continue on the path of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, undertaken by your predecessors. Thank you for being the Francis of the 21st Century and for your passion for families, especially those most in need, shown in Amoris laetitia.

Dear Pope Francis, I remember that last year you personally recommended us to be brave like Mary Magdalene even when addressing the Pope. That is why I allow myself to tell you, with all respect, trust and affection, that as a woman I feel that something is owed to us. You fight against machismo and clericalism, but I think that not enough progress has been made in taking advantage of the wealth of women who make up a large part of the People of God. There is already a theology of women with multiple elaborations. The suitability of women has been proven in civil society, in the economy, health, education, in caring for the planet, the defence of human rights and many other fields, of course, in addition to in the family and catechesis.

This message does not want to be a claim. It is not a question of occupying positions to be “like flower vases”, just an ornament, because it is fashionable to appoint women, nor is it about reaching posts to “climb” to positions of power. No. It is about serving the Church with the gifts that the Creator Father has given us: a peculiar intelligence and sensitivity, an affectivity and particular capacity for the gestation and formation of people and a special aptitude for the generation of relational goods. May the wish expressed by you for women to join decision-making teams together with men cease to be considered a utopia and become something common in the Church.

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María Lía Zervino is the president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations.

With thanks to America Magazine and María Lía Zervino, where this article originally appeared.


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