The Pope Is On The Phone Right Now, Can He Call You Back?

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Here at MyJewishLearning we get lots of emails about all kinds of things, from how to sit shiva, to questions about planning a bar mitzvah.  And soon we’ll have an Ask the Expert feature, too.  But we’re definitely not as hardcore as the nuns who answer the phones at the Vatican in Rome.  nuns_.jpgThe LA Times has a pretty great article about them, and the kinds of problems they help people solve.

For 50 years, the nuns of the order of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master have operated the Vatican switchboard. They are the gatekeepers of the Holy See.

The sisters field half a million calls a year from all over the world. They assist the friendly, the loud, the troubled. They help the faithful negotiate a labyrinthine Roman Catholic Church bureaucracy whose instincts tend toward discretion, if not mystery.

Sister Maria Clara, the 55-year-old chief operator, is gentle and bespectacled, her Italian tinged with her native Korean. After 11 years on the switchboard, she sees her job as a blessed calling.
“People ask us: ‘So you really work on Christmas? You work on Easter?’ ” she said. “Of course we do. The church is a mystic body. I feel that we are the heart of the church. And the heart never stops.”

Behind her, half a dozen colleagues murmured into headsets. They occasionally consulted Bible-sized directories next to their computer terminals.

The nuns answer questions about everything from museum hours to exorcisms.  When people ask to speak to the Pope, the nuns gently ask if a priest, the Vatican press room or a church official can help.  They never outright say no.  They are multilingual–Sister Maria Grazia is 71 and speaks, Italian, English, Spanish, French and Korean–and do lots of minor counseling to all kinds of people, some of whom are a little (or a lot) crazy.

We’re not quite that full service yet, but we’re working on it…

Posted on October 31, 2008

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