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Letter from Rome

While Pope Francis says he is in favor of advancing women to leadership roles, he often seems at a loss at how to do so

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Letter from Rome

Two Honduran women dress the image of Mary Magdalene in this file image taken on April 11, 2006 in the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa, as part of the preparations for the traditional Holy Week procession of the "Lord of Humility". (Photo by Elmer Martinez/AFP)

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Each year on July 22, the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, "the first witness of the Lord's resurrection and the first evangelist".

But celebrating the woman known as the "Apostle of Apostles" with the exalted rank of "feast" is a very recent development. In fact, it dates only to 2016. That's when Pope Francis decreed that her liturgical commemoration would be elevated from being a mere "memorial".

The Magdalene is currently the only woman, besides the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be accorded a proper feast day — something reserved to the apostles, evangelists and just a few others.

This may sound insignificant or trivial. But Catholics have always taken seriously the rule lex orandi lex credendi; basically, that our worship mirrors what we believe. And the Church has honored this by ranking the liturgical celebrations according to their importance.

The most highly ranked are solemnities. Then come feasts. And, finally, there are memorials, many of which are optional.

So, the pope has given new and official prominence to Mary Magdalene, and all women, in the Church.

At least that was his intention with the 2016 decree.

 

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