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Yesterday at the Vatican, Pope Francis met with the participants attending the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). The meeting closed the 50th year anniversary celebrations of the UISG and took place in Paul VI Hall, with 800 women general superiors from across the globe. The informally structured dialogue took place in Italian and was structured around a few central themes.
The UISG just released a video statement of this meeting with the pope. Sister Carmen Sammut, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa, and president of the UISG, says that in anticipation of the assembly, they asked if they could have an audience in which they could ask Pope Francis specific questions. The USIG sent out a request for questions from all parts of the world and received about 25-30, from which they put together a few questions to present to Francis.
“We were very excited that Pope Francis didn’t leave any of our questions out,” says Sister Carmen. “He really wanted to answer all of our questions.”
Among them was a subject making big headlines in the media, related to whether there is anything definitive in Church teaching that prohibits the possibility of women deacons or deaconesses. Another question dealt with leadership in the Church and how women are largely absent from the decision-making processes in the Church.
In the video statement, Sister Carmen says that the Holy Father addressed their questions at length, agreeing that women should have greater authority and decision-making roles, which should not be solely linked to the sacramental priesthood.
Vatican News has run extensive extracts of the meeting between the pope and the assembly participants here. And yesterday, Aleteia published Diane Montagna’s translation of the complete transcript of Pope Francis’ response, which challenge initial reports. His remarks seem to suggest that the faithful should not expect a significant change, but at the same time, there is an openness to ow women may participate more fully in authoritative leadership and decision-making within the Church.
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll — How do you feel about the notion of female deacons?