09/01/2010, 00.00
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Pope: the Church is always in need of "feminine genius"

In his general audience, Benedict XVI begins to describe the female figures who played a "valuable role" in the Church, speaking of Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval mystic, writer, counsellor of bishops and princes.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - "The valuable role that women have played and play in the life of the Church" will be emphasized in the coming weeks by Benedict XVI, who dedicated today’s general audience to a woman, of St. Hildegard Bingen. She lived right in the Middle Ages, and was a writer, mystic and founder of convents, a councillor of bishops and princes.

The Pope announced his intention to devote his reflections to the "feminine genius" to the estimated 5 thousand people present in the unusual setting of the square outside the entrance to the papal palace of Castel Gandolfo, because the courtyard was not able to contain so many faithful.

In 1988, began by Benedict XVI, during the Marian Year, Pope John Paul II wrote a pastoral letter Mulieris Dignitatem which talks about the valuable role that women have played and play in the life of the Church and "give thanks for all the manifestations of feminine genius. "

And even during the Middle Ages "several female figures stand out for their sanctity of life and wealth of teaching," such as St. Hildegard of Bingen, who lived in Germany. Born in 1098 in the Rhineland, she died in 1179 aged 81.

She came from a noble family and was destined from birth to the Church. At the age of eight she was entrusted to a teacher, Jutta of Sponheim, who had retired in seclusion to the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg. Hildegard received the veil from Bishop Otto of Bamberg, around 1112 and in 1136 her sisters named her successor to their Superior. An educated woman, partly because of the increasing number of young people who wanted to join her community, Hildegard founded another convent Rupertsberg, where she spent the rest of life. "She inspired holy emulation of good practice so much so that witnesses spoke of how the mother and daughters would compete with each other".

From childhood she had mystic visions which she spoke of with her spiritual adviser and secretary. "As always happens in the life of the true mystics, she wanted to submit herself to the authority of wise people to discern whether the were mere illusions or if they came from God." She turned to one of the highest authorities of the time, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who comforted her and in 1147, Pope Eugene II during the Council of Trier read a text by Hildegard presented to the archbishop of Mainz. The Pope "authorized the mystic to write of her visions and speak in public."

As the "Teutonic Prophetess" shows, "the custodian of supernatural gifts, never flaunts them and, above all, shows total obedience to ecclesiastical authority. Every gift distributed by the Holy Spirit, in fact, is destined to building the Church and the Church, through its pastors, recognizes their authenticity. " And this is the "seal of an authentic experience of the Holy Spirit, the source of every charisma."

She was "a great woman, who" did not hesitate to leave the monastery for encounters, intrepid interlocutor, with bishops, civil authorities, and the even the emperor” Federico Barbarossa and one who "speaks to us with great current relevance" of love for the Church that lived in difficult times "wounded by the sins of priests and laity." Her example " even in our days inspires in many women the desire to commit their genius in the apostolic work of the Church".

After the audience, finally, a thought to youth: "returning to the usual daily activities from holidays, to spread God's light to all through your witness."

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