Chimamanda Adichie writes a personal reflection on Pope Francis. Titled “Dreaming of a Single Family,” the short essay, her first work since the release of her latest book Notes on Grief, is a commissioned article for Vatican City State daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, published on July 9, 2021.

In the essay, Adichie recounts her journey with the catholic faith, from the childhood days of unquestioned religious belief to a more complicated relationship to the church in later years.

Adichie also reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti, a holy document signed on 3 October 2021, in which the Pope advocates for more human fraternity, solidarity and peace. The encyclical, according to Adichie, was especially comforting to her in the wake of her parents’ sudden deaths. In her words, “it felt like a gift which, until I received it, I did not know I needed.”

Read an excerpt below:

As a teenager, I wore my Catholic identity like a favorite dress, joyfully and reverently. I was a self-styled Catholic apologist, arguing passionately with the Protestant children in defense of such subjects as the Blessed Virgin Mary, tradition, and transubstantiation.”

Years later, something changed. My pious passion withered. I remember my first moment of recoil from the church, when a gentle and devout couple was banned from communion because their daughter had married an Anglican

It felt to me not only uncharitable, but unnecessarily so, as did other subsequent incidents, such as poor people who were refused burials because they owed money to the church.

This happened in my ancestral hometown, in a provincial parish far from the university campus where I grew up. But after the Spiritans left, an uncharitable chill also descended on my university church.

“On Sundays, women of all ages were often harassed, men barring their entry into the church unless they wrapped themselves in shawls to hide their shoulders and arms (which apparently would cause men in the church to sin.)

“Entire homilies were dedicated to the wiles and evils of women. How unsettling to sit through Mass feeling as though one, simply by being born female, had become inherently guilty of a crime.

“My alienation deepened; I had become a person in a place that my spirit had outgrown. Even if I still attended Mass from time to time, it brought me no meaning, and I have since come to believe that meaning is what makes life worthwhile.”

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