"The Eternal Feminine"

Interview With Theologian Janine Hourcade

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ROME, MARCH 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The time has come for a «new feminism» that recognizes women’s genius, as John Paul II proposes, says one of the best-known French women theologians.

Janine Hourcade has just written a book on «The Eternal Feminine: Mystical Women» («L’Eternel Féminin. Femmes Mystiques,» published by Carmel), with an introduction by Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Hourcade’s other books include «Is the Church Misogynist?» (1990) and «Women Priests?» (1993).

Q: On March 8, the United Nations invites us to observe the World Day of Woman. What Christian meaning can be given to this event?

Hourcade: That day, every Christian, simple citizen or political leader, must show love and attention to women: to those who are by their side as wives, mothers, sisters, citizens or under their administration; and to those who are more removed by space or race.

Above all, the Christian must live this duty as Jesus, who showed so much consideration and kindness to women.

Q: You have just published a book on woman. What idea do you wish to transmit?

Hourcade: My book begins with a reflection on the «eternal feminine,» an expression fathered by Goethe, who said: «The eternal feminine attracts us to the highest.»

In the light of the eternal feminine, exceptional women who have marked the history of the Church, from St. Genevieve to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, represent expressions of fulfilled femininity.

Their femininity has not hindered them from carrying out political, social, ecclesial and spiritual roles of the first order.

They are for us a masterly lesson that shows that woman has no need to be a priest to have hierarchical power, to carry out an important role in the Church and in the world. Therefore, battles and resentments in this sense are vain.

Q: John Paul II has just celebrated his 25 years of pontificate. What has impressed you most about this Pope in his teachings on woman and his gestures toward them?

Hourcade: Much can be said about the teachings of John Paul II on woman. Every woman should be full of gratitude for this. He has proclaimed the dignity of woman, limitless faith in the «genius of woman,» in official texts and also in private.

The first time he used this expression was in the presence of Maria Antonietta Macciochi, university professor and European deputy influenced by Marxism and feminism. How can we women of the 21st century not be seduced by the challenge he gives us: a new feminism, removed from a deadly militancy and from servile submission to the patriarch?

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