By Francesca Merlo
On the occasion of their 21st General Chapter, Pope Francis welcomed the Sisters of Charity in the Vatican on Monday. He opened his discourse to the sisters by welcoming their newly elected Superior General, and by wishing her "a serene and fruitful service".
The Pope noted that their visit coincides with the opening of the Synod and took advantage of this coincidence to point out that "the commitment we take on as a Church to grow in synodality is also a strong incentive for Institutes of Consecrated Life".
"I like to think that you consecrated women are an extension of the female presence that walked with Jesus and with the Twelve, sharing the mission and making your own particular contribution," the Pope said.
The Sisters' contributions
Pope Francis then asked the sisters in what way they are participating in this synodal journey. "What is your contribution?", he asked. He noted that these questions "do not have ready-made packaged answers" although "it seems to me that the theme of your Chapter contains an answer".
The theme of the congregation's General Chapter is: Starting afresh from Bethany, with the solicitude of Martha and the listening of Mary.
Martha and Mary
Pope Francis then went on to speak of the presence of these two women, Martha and Mary, with their names and faces. He described them as "disciples who had a very important place in the life of Jesus and the Twelve".
This we can see from the Gospels, he continued. "It confirms that first and foremost, as women and as baptized, that is, disciples of Jesus, you are a living presence in the Church, participating in communion and mission", said the Pope.
Pope Francis then noted that the theme of their Chapter says even more with the words "concern" and "listening". "I am certain that if you really succeed in living solicitude and listening, following the example of the holy sisters Martha and Mary of Bethany, you will continue to make a valuable contribution to the journey of the whole Church", said the Pope.
"In particular", he added, "in concern for the poor and listening to the poor". Here you are teachers said the Pope. "You are masters not with words, but with deeds, with the history of so many of your sisters who have given their lives for this, in solicitude and listening to the elderly, the sick, the marginalized; close to the little ones, to the last with the tenderness and compassion of God".
Finally, the Pope explained, "this builds up the Church and makes it walk in the way of Christ, which is the way of charity".