First woman rector at a Pontifical University

Sr Mary Melone

The Vatican has nominated Franciscan Sr Mary Melone as the first woman rector of a Pontifical University, Vatican Insider reports.

Sr Mary will become the rector of the Pontifical University Antonianum, the Roman university run by the Order of Friars Minor, where she was also the first woman to obtain a permanent position and the first woman to be appointed a dean, which is equivalent to the position of department head.

The Vatican congregation for Catholic Education – headed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski - nominated Sr Mary Melone, an expert on St Anthony of Padua, to lead the pontifical university.

Sr Mary (birth name Maria Domenica) Melone was born in La Spezia in 1964. After finishing school with a specialisation in classics, she joined the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angelina where she took her temporary vows in 1986 and then professed her perpetual vows in 1991. 

She studied theology at the Pontifical University Antonianum completing a PhD thesis on The Holy Spirit in Riccardo di San Vittore's De Trinitate published in 2001. 

'I don't give much importance to these kinds of labels, female theology,' Sr. Melone said in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, published on the occasion of her election as Dean of Theology.

'Above all, I don't like comparisons although I recognise that in the past there may have been a reason for making comparisons. Maybe there is one today as well, I don't know. More space definitely needs to be given to women. The reference to female theology does not really fit with my vision of things: all that exists is theology.

'A woman's approach to mystery, the way in which she reflects on this mystery which offers itself and reveals itself, is certainly different from that of a man. But they do not contrast.

'I believe in theology and I believe that theology created by a woman is typical of a woman. It is different but without the element of laying claim to it. Otherwise it almost seems as though I am manipulating theology, when it is instead a field that requires honesty from the person who places him/herself before the mystery.'

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Woman appointed rector of a Pontifical University for the first time ever (Vatican Insider)

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