A woman to head a Rome pontifical university for first time

For the first time, a woman has been appointed to lead one of Rome’s seven pontifical universities, established directly under the Pope’s authority.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education announced that Franciscan Sr Mary Melone has been appointed rector of the Pontifical University Antonianum.

The Antonianum is run by the Order of Friars Minor.

Sr Melone is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angelina and is currently president of the Italian Society for Theological Research (SIRT).

An expert of St Anthony of Padua, she has a doctorate in dogmatic theology and has previously served as the Antonianum’s dean of theology, being the first woman to do so.

When she was elected dean of theology in 2011, she told L’Osservatore Romano that the Church does not need gender quotas.

“No, it doesn’t need quotas, it needs collaboration. And collaboration needs to grow,” Sr Melone said.

She pointed out that the board that appointed her as dean was made up entirely of men.

In the L’Osservatore Romano interview, Sr Melone said she didn’t give much importance to labels like “female theology”.

She said it is up to women to “get the ball rolling” in terms of their “space” in the Church.

“Women cannot measure how much space they have in the Church in comparison to men; we have a space of our own, which is neither smaller nor greater than the space men occupy,” she said in 2011.

“It is our space. Thinking that we have to achieve what men have, will not get us anywhere,” she said.

She added that “a great deal more can be done, but there is change, you can see it, feel it”.

Sr Melone added that reference to female theology did not fit her vision, as “all that exists is theology”.

Women’s approach to mystery, the way women reflects on mystery, is often different to that of men, but they do not contrast, she said.

“I believe in theology and I believe that theology created by a woman is typical of a woman.

“It is different, but without the element of laying claim to it.

“Otherwise it almost seems as though I am manipulating theology, when it is instead a field that requires honesty from the person who places him/herself before the mystery.”


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