By Mercy Maina

Last week, Monday, November 11, 2019, when Pope Francis announced resignation and new appointments, he appointed members as well as consultors of the Vatican-based Pontifical Council for Culture, among them, Ugandan-born nun, Sr. Dominica Dipio.

Sr. Dipio, a professor of literature at Makerere University in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, has shared with ACI Africa about the appointment and thanked the Holy Father for his trust in her.

“When the news of the Holy Father’s appointment of four of us, women, as consultors to the Pontifical Council for Culture became public, I felt truly humbled and honoured at the same time,” Sr. Dipio told ACI Africa Monday, November 18 referencing the appointment of three other women to the same Council, namely, the Loreto Sr. Patricia Murray, Sr. Mariella Mascitelli of the Sisters of the Divine Master (P.D.D.M), and the French lay, Ms. Maud de Beauchesne-Cassanet.

Sr. Dipio added, “Deep within, me, Mary’s Magnificat stirred as I recognised God’s favour upon me, in entrusting me with this responsibility.”

“The announcement came a day before I published an online article on African proverbs on motherhood. And so, when the outpouring of congratulatory messages started flooding my mailbox, I obviously thought they were for my article,” the member of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church (MSMMC) recalled the events of the beginning of last week.

“I had to ask one of my friends from the U.S. what he was congratulating me for. He simply sent me the link. That was how the overwhelming news explicitly reached me,” she shared.

In her message to ACI Africa, Sr. Dipio expressed her gratitude to Pope Francis saying, “I thank the Holy Father for this trust, and I look forward to meeting my colleagues.”

Her Uganda-based Religious Order shared her sentiments of modesty and thankfulness through a message widely shared on WhatsApp.

“The Missionary Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church, Lira Uganda are humbled that their Sister Dominic has been entrusted with such a responsibility by the Holy Father. May the Holy Spirit guide the team appointed,” reads the message from Sr. Dipio’s congregation, headquartered in Lira, a town in the Northern region of the East African landlocked country.

“My prayer is that we may render dedicated service to the Universal Church, in this capacity,” Sr. Dipio who holds a doctorate in Women in African Cinema from the Rome-based Pontifical Gregorian University concluded.

From Africa, Pope Francis also appointed Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi of Lesotho’s Maseru Archdiocese as one of the members of the same Roman Curia dicastery that has the responsibility of fostering the relationship of the Church with different cultures across the globe.

Archbishop Lerotholi, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.I) holds a Licentiate in Biblical Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada.

Before his appointment as Bishop in June 2009, he was a professor at the National University of Lesotho.

Others appointed as consultors include Msgr. Tamas Toth who is the secretary of the Hungarian Episcopal Conference, Dominican Fr. Eric Salobir, Fr. Paolo Bennati, a Third Order Regular Franciscan, Professor Roberto Battiston, Professor Stefano Paleari, and Dr. Daniele Pasquini, national President of Italian Sports Centre.

Others appointed members of the Council are Baltazar Cardinal Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium, Jozef Cardinal Kesel; Archbishop of Newark, USA Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.SS.R; Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Luis Cardinal Ferrer, S.J.; Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Philippine; Bishop Marian Florczyk, Auxialiary of Poland’s Kielce diocese; and Bishop Antonino Raspanti of Acireale in Italy.

While both the members and consultors of the Council are appointed for a five-year term, their responsibilities vary. The members attend meetings of the Council and represent it in key events and rely on the consultors who study key issues and use their knowledge and expertise in research to advise the Council.

Founded by Pope St. John Paul II in 1982, the Pontifical Council for Culture traces its roots back to the Second Vatican Council when the Council fathers through their Pastoral Constitution ‘Gaudium et spes’ stressed the need for the Church to place itself before the various cultures arising in the modern world.

In 1965, Pope St. Paul VI created the Secretariat for Non-believers, which became the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-believers.

In 1993, Pope St. John Paul II through his Apostolic Letter “Inde A Pontificatus” combined the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Council for Dialogue with Non-believers into one Rome-based dicastery.

In 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Letter “Pulchritudinis Fidei” joining together the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.