VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Saturday that more women are needed in positions of leadership in the Vatican.
“We must move forward to include women in advisory positions, also in government, without fear,” Pope Francis said Nov. 16 in a meeting with the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
“Yes, of course, also as heads of dicasteries,” the Pope said, adding that he had considered two women for the appointment last week of the new prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, for which Francis ultimately selected Spanish Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves.
Pope Francis said that it is important to always remember: “The place of women in the Church is not just as functionaries.”
“Women’s advice is very important,” he said. “The role of women in ecclesial organization, in the Church, goes further, and we must work on this as well because a woman is the image of ‘Mother Church.’”
Pope Francis commended the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life for having two women undersecretaries in their leadership. Both women are married with children.
The Pope told the Vatican dicastery, created in 2016 to promote the pastoral care of the family and the mission of the lay faithful, not to “clericize the laity.”
He reflected: “So many times it happened in the other diocese [Buenos Aires], a parish priest came and told me: ‘I have a wonderful layperson; he knows how to do everything, everything. Do we make him a deacon?’”
Francis lamented that too often he sees permanent deacons become “first-class altar boys or second-class priests,” rather than “custodians of service.”
“This, on clericalization, is an important point,” he said.
With the papal audience, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell concluded its first plenary assembly Nov. 13-16 on the identity and mission of the laity in the world.
The Pope told the dicastery staff to “feel with the heart of the Church” and to move from thinking from a local perspective to a universal perspective.
“The dicastery of which you are a part should, above all else, help the many disciples of Christ to live in daily life in conformity with the baptismal grace they have received,” he said.
“There are so many lay faithful in the world who, living their faith with humility and sincerity, become great lights for those who live next to them,” Pope Francis said.
On the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis said that the poor and most vulnerable can be left behind in the frenetic haste and self-centeredness of the modern world.
“How beautiful it would be if the poor could occupy in our hearts the place they have in the heart of God,” Pope Francis said in his homily Nov. 17.
“In the frenzy of running, of achieving everything right now, anyone left behind is viewed as a nuisance and considered disposable. How many elderly, unborn, disabled and poor persons are considered useless?” he said in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the third annual World Day of the Poor with the theme “The Hope of the Poor Will Never Be Disappointed.”
“Amid so many penultimate and passing realities, the Lord wants to remind us today of what is ultimate, what will remain forever. It is love, for ‘God is love,’” he said.
Pope Francis warned that there is a great temptation in today’s world to try to know and to do everything “right now” that can cause one to lose sight of what is most important: “We no longer find time for God or for our brother and sister living next door.”
“How often do we let ourselves be seduced by a frantic desire to know everything right now, by the itch of curiosity, by the latest sensational or scandalous news, by lurid stories, by the screaming — those who shout loudest and angriest, by those who tell us it is ‘now or never’?” Pope Francis said.
“To us, these are front-page news, but the Lord puts them on the second page,” he said. “That which will never pass away remains on the front page: the living God, infinitely greater than any temple we build for him, and the human person, our neighbor, who is worth more than all the news reports of the world.”
The Pope explained that the antidote to frantic haste is the Christian virtue of perseverance.
“Perseverance entails moving forward each day with our eyes fixed on what does not pass away: the Lord and our neighbor,” he said. “Let us ask that each of us, and all of us as Church, may persevere in the good and not lose sight of what really counts.”
Following the Mass and Angelus prayer, Pope Francis shared a free lunch with nearly 1,500 poor people invited to dine in the Paul VI Hall and nearby colleges. A medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square also offered free medical services to those in need in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor.
Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the medical clinic Nov. 15 and announced the creation of a new homeless shelter right off the St. Peter’s Square colonnade, which he called “the Palace of the Poor.”
The homeless shelter, staffed by the Sant'Egidio community, will have two floors of dormitories that can sleep 50 men and women, a kitchen to provide breakfast and dinner, and a recreation area for fellowship, educational programs and psychological counseling.
“The poor person who begs for my love leads me straight to God,” Pope Francis said.
In his Angelus address, the Pope thanked Catholics in dioceses and parishes around the world for their work in solidarity with the poor, which he said gives hope to the most disadvantaged.
“The Lord calls us to collaborate in the construction of history, becoming, together with him, peacemakers and witnesses of hope in a future of salvation and resurrection,” he said.
Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016. It is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, one week before the celebration of Christ the King.
“The poor facilitate our access to heaven: This is why the sense of the faith of God’s People has viewed them as the gatekeepers of heaven,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
“Even now, they are our treasure, the treasure of the Church,” he said. “For the poor reveal to us the riches that never grow old, that unite heaven and earth, the riches for which life is truly worth living: the riches of love.”