Pope Stresses Importance of Widespread Presence of Women in the Church

Addresses the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture

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Pope Francis called for a “more widespread and incisive female presence” in the Church. The Holy Father made his comments during an audience with participants of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s Plenary Assembly.

The assembly reflected on the theme: “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference”; a topic, the Holy Father said, that “is very close to my heart.”

“I have been able to touch upon it and invite to further develop it. It consists of studying new criteria and ways, so that women feel not as guests, but as full participants in the various areas of social and ecclesial life,” he said.

The Pope discussed the importance of seeking a balance between equality and difference, which he said should not be approached ideologically which impedes one from seeing the full scope of the reality.

“The equality and difference of women—like men—are perceived better from the perspective of ‘with’, of relationship, than ‘against,'” he said. “For some time, we have left behind us, at least in Western societies, the model of the social subordination of women to men, a secular model which, however, has never been spent of all its negative effects.”

The Holy Father went on to say that it was important to recognize that men and women share an identical nature with their own modality. “One is necessary to the other, and vice versa, so as to truly fulfill the fullness of the person,” he said.

The contribution of women, particularly in pastoral activity, education as well as social, cultural and economic structures, he continued, should be encouraged. “The feminine dimension of the Church,” the Pope stressed, is a “welcoming womb that regenerates life.”

Focusing on the third aspect of the assembly, the female body, the 78 year old Pontiff said that it is a symbol of life that unfortunately is attacked and disfigured, “even by those who should be guardians and companions in life.”

The Holy Father highlighted the many forms of slavery and mutilation that occur, particularly of many poor women who are forced into exploitative conditions, saying that are “made victims of a culture of waste.”

Rounding out his address, the Pope noted the importance of the presence of women within the life of the Church. He expressed his conviction of the urgency of welcoming women into a greater participation.  

“A more widespread and incisive female presence in the Community is desirable, so that we can see many women involved in pastoral responsibilities, in the accompaniment of persons, families and groups, as well as in theological reflection,” he said.

 “We cannot forget the irreplaceable role of women in the family. The qualities of gentleness, of particular sensitivity and tenderness, which is abundant in the female soul, represent not only a genuine force for the life of families, for the irradiation of a climate of peace and harmony, but also a reality without which the human vocation would be unfeasible.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis that it is crucial to defend and promote the role of women both in areas of the public sphere as well as their presence in the family.

“We must not leave women alone to carry this burden and to make decisions,” he said. “Rather, all institutions, including the ecclesial community, are called to ensure freedom of choice for women, so that they have the possibility to take on social and ecclesial responsibilities in a way that is in harmony with family life.”

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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