Nurturing a New Feminism

Interview with Rector of Regina Apostolorum Athenaeum

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ROME, MAY 22, 2001 ( At a time when a U.N. committee wants Mother´s Day canceled «for being too linked to a traditional view of woman,» a conference is looking toward a new feminism.

The conference, «Women and Cultures in the Perspective of a New Feminism,» is organized by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum. Running today and Wednesday, it brings together some of the most influential women in the world of culture, politics and professional life.
<br> Speakers include professor Angela Ales Bello of the Pontifical Lateran University, the first woman dean of an ecclesiastical-university department in Rome; Janne Haaland Matlary, former Norwegian secretary of state, and professor of international relations at the University of Oslo; Marie-Thérése Avemeka, Minister for the Integration of Woman in the Development of Congo; and Alicja Grzeskowiak, president of the Polish Senate.

ZENIT asked Father Paolo Scarafoni, rector of Regina Apostolorum, why the athenaeum organized such a congress.

Father Scarafoni: We want to discuss and study in greater depth the idea of a new feminism that will be directed, especially, to appreciating the characteristic qualities of woman. We believe that respect for woman´s rights is something fundamental, but not in the context of antagonism toward man.

We want to see woman with different eyes, with the new feminism that is enlightened by reason and Revelation. We want to develop the idea launched by John Paul II to appreciate and promote «feminine nature.»

–Q: What does the congress mean when it refers to «Women and Cultures»?

–Father Scarafoni: We want to underline the special role of woman in the context of different cultures. Today it is thought that communication and globalization will bring a leveling of cultures. However, we must also see the positive aspect of globalization. Greater and more widespread communication fosters the meeting of cultures, which, as a result, are enriched.

In the emerging society we will see ever more clearly the role of woman in the realm of work. She will become a protagonist especially in the realm of education and culture, particularly of artistic and religious expression.

–Q: It is interesting that a pontifical athenaeum in Rome, where to a large extent seminarians and priests study, would organize a congress on women, on lay women and on women committed to the new feminism.

–Father Scarafoni: The Church has understood very well the importance of woman´s role, and this is why it is trying increasingly to appreciate it. Moreover, this Pope has given tremendous impetus to this cause; in fact, he is one of the ones who have most defended woman in the Church.

John Paul II is the Pope who has canonized the largest number of women saints; the one who named St. Thérèse of Lisieux a doctor of the Church; the one who is promoting the idea of declaring Edith Stein a doctor of the Church.

This Pontiff speaks about Mary and his devotion to her, both to heads of state as well as bishops.

If we analyze the life of the Church profoundly, its sacramental life, its apostolic life, we will realize that women are the real protagonists, beginning with prayer. Even from the numerical point of view, the cloistered women religious, the consecrated women, are three times more numerous than men. The Church´s identity is strongly characterized by its feminine dimension. Indeed, the Church is the Bride of Christ.

–Q: It could be said that the Church´s future is in the hands of woman.

–Father Scarafoni: What is certain is that the role of woman is fundamental for the new evangelization. Suffice it to think of the number of catechists, teachers, of the educational role that women carry out within the family.

Woman will have an increasingly greater role within the Church, as it is part of her nature to unite. This is why we must promote women´s work, their leadership: women apostles.

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