For the third time, a woman holds the presidency of the Pontifical Academy

Pope Francis appointed British Sister Helen Alford (58) president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. She has been a member of the Academy since 2020, becoming the third woman to lead the Pontifical Academy.

The Vatican announced Alford’s appointment on April 1. The sister succeeds Stefano Zamani, an Italian economist.

Before that, women had already been at the helm of the academy twice before: Mary Ann Glendon, the American lawyer and Margaret Archer, the British sociologist.


Since 2021, Alford has been Dean of the School of Social Sciences at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, also known as Angelicum. Since 2020, she is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Pope John Paul II founded the Academy in 1994. Sociologists from fields such as economics, sociology, law and political science study issues of importance to the Vatican. In addition, they are committed to developing and promoting applications of Catholic Social Teaching.


In an interview with The central nervous system In 2020, Sister Alford said it was important to “revive the whole idea of ​​Catholic social thought”.

In the interview, she said, “The Gospel presents clear and concrete principles for living together in a way that recognizes the God-given human dignity of each person and promotes a good, just, and peaceful social life.”

Part of the mission of Catholic Social Teaching, she said, is to help people realize that promoting the common good is not just altruism. It is also a matter of recognizing one’s relationship to others and nurturing one’s need for relationships.

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Commercial engineer in London and Dominican

Helen Alford was born in 1964 in London. She holds a degree in Commercial Engineering from the University of Cambridge and has gained extensive experience in the UK industrial sector.

In 1994 she joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. She teaches Catholic social doctrine, work ethics and corporate social responsibility.

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