Poverty? This is a complex word, says Catholic religious sister, economist, and secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Alessandra Smerilli. In her article that opens this month’s issue, she adds, it is doubly complex if you consider it in the light of a women’s perspective.
Who are “the poor”? Are they the ones to be pitied like all those (men and women) who do not possess anything and are forced into a difficult and often painful life? Alternatively, is there another poverty that stems from the idea of a different kind of happiness, severing, yes “severing”, ties with consumption and the marketplace, but at the same time claiming freedom of choice, and equality? Yes, there is a poverty as a method, as prophecy, even as a form of rebellion and transgression. This is the poverty that liberates, as Pope Francis puts it. A poverty that enriches us.
In the month in which the VI World Day of the Poor occurs (13 November), Women Church World has taken this as an impetus to talk about female poverty; herein, the reader will find speeches, interviews, reflections, and stories. In all the testimonies collected here, poverty is enriched with alternative values; it is enthused by meanings that are usually overlooked; and, acquires meaning and attractiveness. As Smerilli succinctly emphasizes, “Poverty is a blessing, misery is a curse”.
Most convincingly, St Clare considered poverty a blessing, and for herself and her sisters she asked for this “privilege”, as historian Giuseppe Perta recounts. Centuries later, and after so many others, a young woman, who was a professional dancer, courted by European dance companies, who completed first class law studies, thinks likewise. Her name is Sister Veronica Maria, and today she defends the choice of poverty as a “transgression”, the most subversive, “because it goes against the tide”, she says in an interview with Gloria Satta. Sister Françoise Petit, Superior General of the Daughters of Charity, describes it similarly, “The vow of poverty is not obedience to a rule but freely chosen conduct”.
In this issue, we have also questioned the definition “poor” in the Church and of the Church. Who are they? Here are the voices - many, poignant, passionate - of theologians, teachers, faithful, priests, bishops, collected here by Lucia Capuzzi and Vittoria Prisciandaro. These are the women who have been marginalised, humiliated, who are not recognised as having a role in the Church despite their hard work, culture and intelligence. Maria Pia Veladiano states in a few illuminating words, “Poor are the women (almost all of them) who, in the right place, a place of co-responsibility visible to the world and to all the faithful, who could fill the churches with hope and change the world according to the kingdom’s plan and cannot do so”.