Benedict XVI Defends Women in Mideast

Praises Role of Mothers and Religious Sisters

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AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009 ( A public witness to the dignity and prophetic charism of women is a step toward peace and a civilization of love, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope spoke today about the unique gift of women to society during an open-air Mass at Amman International Stadium, the largest event scheduled for his time in Jordan.

The Holy Father arrived to this Middle Eastern nation last Friday for the first stop on his weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He leaves Monday for Israel and will visit the Palestinian Territories before returning to Rome this Friday.

The Bishop of Rome dedicated a central portion of his homily to reflect on the Year of the Family, which the local Church in the Holy Land is marking this year. He particularly focused on the dignity of women, offering reflections which perhaps take on particular significance considering that he gave them in the Middle East and on the day when many countries — though he did not mention this directly — celebrate Mother’s Day.

«During the celebration of the present Year of the Family,» the Pope said, «the Church throughout the Holy Land has reflected on the family as a mystery of life-giving love, endowed in God’s plan with its own proper calling and mission: to radiate the divine Love which is the source and the ultimate fulfillment of all the other loves of our lives.»

He continued, «An important aspect of your reflection during this Year of the Family has been the particular dignity, vocation and mission of women in God’s plan.»

Debt of gratitude

Benedict XVI emphasized that the Church in the Middle East is indebted to women.

«How much the Church in these lands owes to the patient, loving and faithful witness of countless Christian mothers, religious sisters, teachers, doctors and nurses,» he said. «How much your society owes to all those women who in different and at times courageous ways have devoted their lives to building peace and fostering love!»

«From the very first pages of the Bible,» the Pontiff went on, «we see how man and woman, created in the image of God, are meant to complement one another as stewards of God’s gifts and partners in communicating his gift of life, both physical and spiritual, to our world.»

«Sadly,» he lamented, «this God-given dignity and role of women has not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed.»

The German Pontiff cited words of his predecessor, affirming that there is a realization in the Church and society that «we need what the late Pope John Paul II called the ‘prophetic charism’ of women as bearers of love, teachers of mercy and artisans of peace, bringing warmth and humanity to a world that all too often judges the value of a person by the cold criteria of usefulness and profit.»

«By its public witness of respect for women, and its defense of the innate dignity of every human person,» Benedict XVI concluded, «the Church in the Holy Land can make an important contribution to the advancement of a culture of true humanity and the building of the civilization of love.»

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