In September 2013, Pope Francis appealed to the Church to take charge of anyone who bore the marks of physical or psychological suffering, stating “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity” (L’Osservatore Romano, 21 September 2013). The stories and insights in this issue of Women Church World throw light on the contribution made by women with regard to formation, spiritual accompaniment, catechesis and other forms of assistance and listening. Caring for souls remains part of an ongoing charismatic ministry to be encouraged and strengthened. Sensing the urgency to proclaim God’s saving love prior to moral and religious obligation, Pope Francis reiterated his effective vision of the Church as a “field hospital after a battle” where it is necessary to “heal wounds”. It is perhaps also in light of this consideration that a commission has been newly reconvened aimed at addressing the question of female diakonia. The commission will explore, we hope the manifold evidence of the “apostolic creativity” of women who from the beginning have been active in proclaiming the gospel as God’s consolation in times of difficulty.
In view of the present situation, Pope Francis’ vision of the Church as the “field hospital” reveals itself as prophetic as ever. The image has almost overbearingly become part of our daily life, where we see the emergence of actual field hospitals and the tireless work of able medical and paramedical personnel tending to the sick. We have witnessed the example of those who have continued to work, notwithstanding the risks to their own lives, so as to ensure that essential services continue to run. Despite the sacrifice, we have seen the majority of the population embrace isolation during this dramatic health emergency. The consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic have thus revealed the substantial synergy between the world and the Church. The former is called finally to orient its values, rather than to the culture of individualism, to the care of the other, of creation and of God, whereas the latter has the opportunity to identify with and invigorate its fundamental mission of consoling the wounded. Humanity is in need of the restorative closeness and caress of the Church, which Pope Francis understands as the outpouring of the tenderness of Christ the mother, who bends over the sick to restore wisdom, life and salvation.
Francesca Bugliani Knox