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Pope Francis

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Meet the first woman to head a pontifical university in Rome

2015-12-22


This Franciscan sister may at first seem like the typical professor, but she's not. In fact, she's the first female rector of a pontifical university in Rome, the Antonianum.

Mary Melone wasn't surprised by her appointment. She's already been a pioneer in education, having previously served as a dean. That leadership experience helped prepare her for the current role.

SR. MARY MELONE
Rector, Pontifical University Antonianum
"It's a novelty, but not a significant development, in the sense that there is no difference in relationships with other rectors or other institutions with which we have to talk to. It's the novelty of having a job that has always been entrusted to male figures.”

She believes that Pope Francis entrusted her with this position, which she'll be in until 2017, as part of his overall project to open up more roles to women inside the Church.

SR. MARY MELONE
Rector, Pontifical University Antonianum
"It is an opening that the Church, which is obviously a big institution, has been seriously pursuing for years. But I think that Pope Francis has truly accelerated the process. He has created an environment of reflection and rethinking. And he is more sensitive to the presence of women.”

Although she believes in the important role that women can develop within the Church, she rejects the definition of a specific feminine theology and distrusts gender quotas, both in and out of the Church. She is convinced that whoever really deserves it, will move forward.

She also spoke about the debate over whether women can enter the priesthood. The question isn't open now, she believes, but she respects those who are struggling to reconsider it.

SR. MARY MELONE
Rector, Pontifical University Antonianum
"I don't believe that women have to be priests in order to have an active, constructive role of responsibility in the Church. But this does not mean that it's not important to rethink how the priesthood is lived today by men, in the sense that-and I use the words of Pope Francis- it is a form of service. When interpreted as a form of power, obviously it creates discrimination and usually women are the first to suffer because they never reach the priesthood.”

Far from these issues, Melone continues her daily work Antonianum: modernizing education for her students, signing research agreements and student exchanges around the world; and increasing the number of pupils at her university.


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