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Vatican offers olive branch to US nuns

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Mother Mary Clare Millea, left, and Sister Agnes Mary Donovan leave at the end of a press conference at the Vatican, yesterday.


A sweeping Vatican investigation of Roman Catholic sisters in the United States that began five years ago amid criticism they had become secular and overly feminist ended up mostly praising nuns for their contributions to the church, a sign of the shift in tone under Pope Francis.

The report, released yesterday, praised the sisters, thanked them for their selfless work caring for the poor, and promised to value their "feminine genius" more, while gently suggesting ways to survive amid a steep drop in their numbers.

Given the criticism of American religious life that prompted the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI to launch the investigation in 2008, the final report was most remarkable for what it didn't say.

There was no critique of the nuns, no demands that they shift their focus from social justice issues to emphasise Catholic teaching on abortion, no condemnation that a feminist, secular mentality had taken hold in their ranks.

Rather, while offering a sobering assessment of the difficult state of American congregations, the report praised the sisters' dedication and reaffirmed their calling in a reflection of the pastoral and encouraging tone characteristic of the first Jesuit pope.