Sister Lucy Britto
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Inside the archives section of the Vatican Secretariat in Rome sits Sister Lucy Britto. For seven hours every day , she sifts through the sea of mail that the charismatic Pope Francis gets. These include greetings, letters of appreciation, requests for prayers and even help to sort out family disputes.
It is a job Sister Lucy (in picture with Pope Francis) -born and brought up in South Goa's Cuncolim -has been doing for 13 years, and for three pontiffs. She is the only Indian among the 300-odd staff rendering this service at the Secretariat -the oldest dicastery in the Roman Curia, the central papal governing bureaucracy of the Catholic Church.
Sister Lucy , 69, has also had Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II as her bosses. It's a privileged position but also a lot of work. “There is no time to interact with others as work is pouring in,“ she tells TOI from Vatican City . Vatican Radio had earlier reported that Pope Francis gets a few thousand letters a week from across the world.
Her job is to make sure that details of all letters are fed into the system. “Nothing is thrown out. Every letter received is treated with secrecy and respect for the sender. Even little children write in and send drawings of the Pope with his skullcap,“ she says.
Not too long ago, she was pleasantly surprised to see a letter in Konkani that came in from Mapusa. A majority of the letters come from Italy , Portugal, France and Spain, she says, adding that most Indian mail is sent from Kerala.
Besides being proficient in French (she worked as a lecturer in French at St Francis College for Women in Hyderabad), Sr Lucy is also able to decipher text in Polish and German, which she picked up on the job. While Hindi and Marathi come naturally to her, she also has a good command over Portuguese and Spanish.
Sr Lucy visits her family in Mumbai and Goa every three years. “Goa is my own land and it's only natural that I have so much nostalgia for it. I feel bad about the coconut trees being cut down because Goa is such a charming and beautiful state,“ she says. Her younger broth er Victor Britto and his family have just returned from Rome after having visited her and receiving special blessings from Pope Francis.
The Goan moved to Mumbai in the 1950s and joined the Sisters of Charity when she was 21. A graduate in English literature, political science and psychology , Sr Lucy went on to pursue a masters degree in French and an MPhil in the same subject from France. Before departing for Rome, she was posted as Mother Superior at Prabhadevi's Yuvathi Sharan hostel in Mumbai.
“It could have been anybody else,“ she says of her posting at the Vatican's Secretariat. “Perhaps they considered my certificates and experience.“