Pope appoints nun as No. 2 of Dicastery for Consecrated Life

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The Italian nun has served as the superior-general of her community and had a PhD in psychology.

Pope Francis has appointed Sister Simona Brambilla as secretary of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Holy See Press Office announced on October 7, 2023.

The Italian nun, former superior general of the Missionary Sisters of the Consolata, replaces Archbishop José Rodriguez Carballo, ‘number 2’ of this dicastery since 2013. Since 2011, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz has been at the head of this structure, which employs around 40 civil servants.

Born in Monza in 1965, Simona Brambilla joined the Consolata Missionaries after graduating in nursing in 1986. She made her religious profession in 1991, and in 1998 obtained a degree in psychology from Rome’s Gregorian University, followed by a doctorate. In 1999, she moved to Mozambique, where she worked in youth ministry in a study center.

Professor of psychology at the Gregorian University (2002-2006), she was general councillor of her community from 2005 to 2011. She was then elected superior general of this community, founded in 1910 and now present in Africa, America, Asia, and Europe. In 2017, she was elected for a second six-year term, which ended last May.

In 2019, she was appointed a member of this dicastery in charge of religious life, along with six other women. This was already a first.

A woman prefect within a year?

This latest appointment of a woman to a position of high responsibility joins others made by Francis during his pontificate. Sister Nathalie Becquart’s appointment as Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops in 2021 was one of the most significant. The French nun became the first woman to obtain the right to vote at the synod.

In the same year, the Pope appointed Sister Alessandra Smerilli as ‘number 2’ of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, and Sister Raffaella Petrini as Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

The Argentine Pontiff has also appointed three women to the Dicastery for Bishops.

Other appointments have demonstrated the turnaround sought by the Argentine, such as that of Barbara Jatta, in 2016, who became the first director of the Vatican Museums in history.

Pope Francis has also named several women to the position of undersecretary – Gabriella Gambino and Linda Ghisoni to the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, Sister Carmen Ros Nortes to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, Francesca Di Giovanni to the section for relations with States of the Secretariat of State.

In December 2022, the Pope announced in an interview that he would appoint a woman to head a dicastery “that will be vacant within two years.” He said there is “no obstacle to a woman guiding a dicastery where a lay person can be prefect.” In fact, the new Roman Curia constitution Praedicate Evangelium of 2022 makes provision for this.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, Vatican media released statistics on the presence of women in the Vatican, to mark the tenth anniversary of Francis’ pontificate. They now make up about 23% of employees, while 5% of high-level positions are held by women.

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