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Synod on Synodality: Italian nun claims St. Paul attended ‘non-ritual female liturgy’

Mother Maria Grazia Angelini gave an exegesis of the New Testament for synod delegates during the general congregation on Oct. 13 in which she claimed that St. Paul “inserted himself into a ‘non-ritual’ female liturgy” when he arrived in the city of Philippi in Macedonia. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2023 / 08:57 am (CNA).

An Italian religious sister told the Synod on Synodality assembly Friday that St. Paul attended “a non-ritual female liturgy” ahead of synod discussions of women’s inclusion in the Church. 

Mother Maria Grazia Angelini gave an exegesis of the New Testament for synod delegates during the general congregation on Oct. 13 in which she claimed that St. Paul “inserted himself into a ‘non-ritual’ female liturgy” when he arrived in the city of Philippi in Macedonia. 

Speaking to hundreds of synod participants in Paul VI Hall, Angelini described how “Paul was welcomed by a liturgy outside the ritual, among women, in the open air.”

She said: “The apostle did not start, as was his custom, in the synagogue … He inserted himself into a ‘non-ritual’ female liturgy, breaking into it with the word of the Gospel.”

Angelini’s speech referred to a historical event recorded in chapter 16 of the Acts of the Apostles, which states: “On the sabbath, we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there” (Acts 16:13). 

The Scripture goes on to describe how one of the women named Lydia listened “and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying” and she was baptized along with her household (Acts 16:14-15). The Biblical text does not make mention of any sort of a liturgy.

The sister’s exegesis of the Acts of the Apostles was part of a larger speech on “the cry of women” throughout the New Testament. She argued that the contribution of women “unceasingly fuels the spiritual dynamism of reform.”

Angelini is one of two “spiritual assistants” who helped to lead the meditations for the retreat and the prayers throughout the Synod assembly this month, along with Father Timothy Radcliffe

The 79-year-old nun served as the abbess of the Benedictine Monastery of Saints Peter and Paul in Viboldone, Italy, from 1996 to 2019. She studied theology under Giovanni Moioli and has written more than a dozen spiritual books.

She is one of three women who addressed the Synod’s general congregation on Friday at the start of a new module of Synod discussions on “Co-responsibility in Mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?” which will be discussed by Synod delegates over the next two days. 

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