· Vatican City ·

Observatory

Women’s leadership. The missionary secretary to Eritrean bishops who quotes Solomon

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04 September 2021

I have always been fascinated by the wisdom of King Solomon, for when he became ruler, he did not ask the Lord for riches and power, but for wisdom and discernment to guide God’s people. In the same way, the main gift that I think I have to ask the Lord now is his wisdom to guide those who are engaged in the Eritrean Catholic Secretariat so that we can carry out our mandate in the best possible way”. With these words, last June 1, Sister Tseghereda Yohannes, a Combonian missionary, took office as the new Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops of Eritrea. This is the first time for a religious woman. However, Sister Tseghereda is accustomed to treading untrodden paths. Two years ago she finished her doctorate in Molecular Medicine at the University of Nairobi with an experimental thesis on the different reactions to malaria by the nine ethnic groups in Eritrea. Thanks to her study, it is now possible to give each one differentiated and more effective care. In addition to her applied research, the new Secretary has combined academic teaching for over sixteen years and has been a counselor of the Comboni Province. Deeply knowledgeable of the history and society of her land, the nun has indicated as a priority for the current assignment “to continue to fulfill the mission of the Church to meet the needs of God's people today”. In addition, to carrying out “pastoral, humanitarian and social activities for the construction of society according to Gospel principles and in favor of all the Eritrean people, regardless of ethnicity, creed or age” of each one.

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The Lutheran World Federation too has also chosen a woman as its general secretary. Her name is Anne Burghardt, a 45-year-old theologian from Estonia. In office since November, she succeeds Martin Junge who has led the communion of the 148 member Churches for the past eleven years. An expert in ecumenism, she was among the organizers of the Year of the Reformation, to which Pope Francis was invited to the opening five years ago. This was a crucial moment, which she says, “It showed the world what is now possible. No one would have imagined it a hundred years ago”. At the center of her road map for the coming years is the strengthening of theological formation. In this and in her dialectical approach, Anne Burghardt sees an antidote - perhaps the most effective - to the seductive power of black and/or white solutions, so much in vogue in the current public debate.

by Lucia Capuzzi
A Journalist with the Italian national newspaper “Avvenire”.