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The Nerve to Confront the Pope

MAKERS Moment

The Nerve to Confront the Pope

More From Theresa

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In this video

Kane reflects on where she got the nerve to challenge the Pope.

Theresa's Biography

Three Attributes to Describe Herself: Peaceful, partygoer, and social
Proudest Accomplishment: Her life decision to become a Catholic nun.
Special Guests: Her mother, sister, and niece traveled from New York to be in the audience during her 1979 papal greeting.
Back to School: She went back to school in her mid-50s for a Master's in Women's Studies. 

In 1979, Sister Theresa Kane was serving as President of the US Leadership of the Women Religious when she was invited to publicly address Pope John Paul II during his visit to the National Shrine in Washington DC. She came before the Pope and the packed pews and said quietly: “We have heard the powerful message of our church addressing the dignity and reverence of all persons. As women, we have pondered these words." The Church, "must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries.” While the Pontiff himself did not immediately respond, Sister Theresa’s words were broadcast and televised around the world. They continue to reverberate today. She says her plea was “a surprise” to the public, “but not to professional theologians or those in the sisterhood…we were looking at the role of women in the church and society and I was quite imbued in that culture.”
 
She has continued to speak, to teach, and to lobby for the expansion of women’s roles within the Church. And she left an impression: When a member of Sister Theresa’s order met with the Pope nineteen years later, he made note of the connection and asked if the sister knew her. The reply was “yes.” John Paul II asked the sister—not once, but twice—to “give my regards to Sister Kane.” 

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