The Slovenia Times

Bishops' Conference gets first woman secretary-general


The Slovenian Bishops' Conference (SŠK) will get its first ever woman secretary-general as sister Marija Šimenc takes over from Tadej Strehovec on 17 April. She will be the highest-raking woman in the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church.

Šimenc is a nun of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians or Salesian Daughters of Don Bosco. "In a wide range of ministries she has been engaged in the processes of relationships and behaviours in communities and society in general," the SŠK said.

The Slovenian bishops appointed Šimenc at the regular session of the conference in late December, announcing the appointment in a brief release in early February.

Andrej Saje, the bishop of Novo Mesto and the head of the Bishops' Conference, said Šimenc had extensive leadership experience within her religious institute and the Church.

Quoted by the tabloid newspaper Slovenske Novice on 8 March, Saje listed several of Šimenc's qualities, including her fluency in Italian. This is considered important for cooperation within the Church internationally and at the level of European bishops' conferences.

In general, inclusion of the laity, including nuns in the Bishops' Conference, is "in the spirit of the synodal process that is taking place all over the world", Saje added.

"Pope Francis has for many years encouraged the inclusion of women in various ministries in the Church, which do not necessarily have to be performed by a priest, as women can contribute their expertise and experience. I think that with this appointment, the bishops have listened to the pope and have put into practice what he recommends," Šimenc told Slovenske Novice.

In a press release issued on 8 March, the Bishops' Conference noted women's presence in many senior positions in the Slovenian Catholic Church in the pastoral ministry, Catholic educational institutions and lay associations.

They are most often members or leaders of parish or diocesan prayer groups, parish councils, catechists and assistants in religious education, and lecturers in educational institutions.

Most of the Slovenian Catholic cultural and educational institutions are headed by nuns or laywomen, including the Archiepiscopal Archives of Ljubljana, the Conference of Religious Institutes of Slovenia, the Alojzij Šuštar Primary School in Ljubljana, the Samaritan Karitas Institute, the Museum of Christianity in Slovenia in Stična and the Schellenburg Cultural Centre in Ljubljana.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church in Slovenia has increasingly included women in the educational, pastoral and leadership life of the Church, the Bishops' Conference said.

However, unlike in the Protestant or Evangelical Church, women cannot become priests in the Catholic Church.


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