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22 June 2001

Maria Teresa Porcile Santiso - 1943-2001

News of the death of Maria Teresa Porcile Santiso from Uruguay has been received with great sadness in the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. A Roman Catholic lay theologian who specialized in biblical studies and was greatly respected in ecumenical circles, Porcile Santiso died 18 June in Montevideo, Uruguay. She was 58 years old.

Recalling her contributions to the WCC's work on and with women in the churches, programme executive for Women's Programmes Aruna Gnanadason said of Porcile Santiso: "Her major contribution to the WCC was the lively theological spirit she brought into our discussions."

"Her very being was an expression of her theology because she was a deeply spiritual person with a strong commitment to the struggles of the poor, of women and of all excluded peoples," Gnanadason, who also coordinates the WCC's Justice, Peace and Creation team, added.

Porcile Santiso obtained a doctorate in theology from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and was professor of philosophy in Montevideo. She was actively involved in ecumenical and interreligious concerns both with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity as well as with the WCC and numerous nongovernmental organizations affiliated with the United Nations. In 1981, she participated in a Sheffield conference on the WCC study on Women and Men in the Church, and in 1982 attended a Faith and Order Commission meeting in Lima, Peru. Porcile Santiso was an observer at the 1983 WCC assembly in Vancouver.

Schooled in the texts of the Roman Catholic Magisterium, she was one of the contributors to the 1990 WCC publication Women, Religion and Sexuality, a multi-faith study which reviewed the authoritative texts of five major religions pertaining to sexuality. In her numerous publications on the relationship between women and men, Porcile Santiso presented a new anthropological approach. Many of her writings reflect a Christian spirituality that is open to dialogue with people of other faiths. According to Gnanadason, "she will be remembered for her openness to engage in theological dialogue".

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.