(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 05.14.2023).- On Saturday, May 13, Day of the Virgin of Fatima, Pope Francis received in special audience, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the participants in the General Assembly of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.
Here is his address in English.
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I welcome you all and all those following the transmission remotely, women who are part of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, who have come from different parts of the world with their families to be imbued with the ecclesial spirit and be able to return with greater enthusiasm to the places from which they came. I express my warm greeting to all. I am grateful for the interventions that preceded me, presenting your work and the initiatives at hand. Thank you.
With your presence here, you wish to prepare to take part in the General Assembly that will be held in Assisi next week. All of you will be able to do so accompanying the Delegates with prayer, so that you allow yourselves to be illumined by the Spirit and make it an occasion to renew your missionary impetus, following the original principles that moved the Union’s Founders and, at the same time, look to the future with eyes and hearts open to the world, to listen to the lament of so many women suffering in the world from injustice, abandonment, discrimination, poverty, or inhuman treatment since their girlhood in some procedures. The Global Observatory for Women, which you have started, will give you pointers to identify the needs and thus be able to be “Samaritans” — travel companions that bring hope and serenity to hearts, helping and making others help to alleviate so many corporal and spiritual needs of humanity.
Today there is an urgent need to find peace in the world, a peace that, above all, begins in the interior of the heart, a sick heart, lacerated by the divisions of hatred and resentment.
Together with peace, woman’s anthropological identity is also in danger, as she is used as an instrument, as argument of political controversies and cultural ideologies that ignore the beauty with which she has been created.
It’s necessary to value more her capacity of relation and donation, and that men understand better the richness of the reciprocity they receive from woman, to recover those anthropological elements that characterize human identity and with it, that of woman and her role in the family and in society, which does not fail to be a beating heart. And if we want to know what humanity is without woman, what man is without woman, we have it in the first page of the Bible: it’s loneliness. Man without woman is alone. Humanity without woman is alone. A culture without woman is alone. Where woman is absent there is loneliness, arid loneliness that generates sadness, and all sorts of harm to humanity. Where woman is absent there is loneliness.
Today, when the Apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the little shepherds of Fatima is celebrated — and today I am also very sad, because in the country where the Virgin appeared a law has been promulgated to kill, one more step in the long list of Countries with euthanasia — today, then, thinking of the Virgin, let’s look to Mary as model of woman par excellence, who lives in plenitude a gift and a task: the gift of “maternity” and the task “to take care” of her children in the Church.
You also as women have that gift and that task, in each one of the realms where you are present, knowing that, without you, these ambits are alone. It’s not good that man be alone, hence [the need of] woman. Mary teaches you to generate life and to protect it always, relating to others with tenderness and compassion, and combining three languages: that of the mind, that of the heart and that of the hands, which must be coordinated. What the head thinks, the heart must feel and what the hands must do; what the heart feels must be in harmony with what the head thinks and the hands do; what the hands do, must be in harmony with what is felt and what is thought. I have said this on other occasions, I believe women have the capacity to think what they feel, to feel what they think and do, and to do what they feel and think. I encourage you to continue offering that sensibility at the service of others.
Returning to Fatima, amid the silence and solitude of the fields, a kind Woman full of light meets with some poor and simple children. As all the great things that God does, what characterizes the scene is poverty and humility. We are also represented in those little shepherds — the whole of humanity –, little fragile ones, and we could even say disconcerted and frightened in face of the events that present themselves in life and that sometimes we are unable to understand, because the events surpass us and put us in crisis.
In this environment marked by weakness, it’s fitting to ask oneself: what made Mary strong? What gave strength to the little shepherds to do what She asked them? What is the secret that changed those fragile and little people into witnesses of the joy of the Gospel? Dear sisters, the secret of all discipleship and of the availability for the mission lies in cultivating that union, a union from within with the “sweet Guest of the soul” who always accompanies us; the love of God and remaining united to Him, as the branches of the vine (cf. John 15:1-11), to live — as Mary — the fullness of being woman with the awareness of feeling chosen and protagonists in God’s saving work.
But this isn’t enough. This interior union with Jesus must be manifested on the outside, it must be manifested by remaining in communion with the Church, with one’s family or with one’s organization, which help one to mature in the faith. This is what gives value to the initiatives we take forward. The works must be “prayed” and prayer must be “worked.” In this way we will be well situated in syntony with the mission of the whole Church. This is also the essence of synodality, which makes us feel protagonists and co-responsible for the wellbeing of the Church, to be able to integrate the differences and work in ecclesial harmony.
I thank you for all that you do and I encourage you to go forward with enthusiasm in your projects and activities in favour of evangelization, following the interior voice of the Spirit, docile to interior touches. May Jesus bless you and the Virgin take care of you and your families. I pray for the fruits of the Assembly, speak clearly, discuss, fight a bit because it does good, it takes you forward. And I ask you, please, that you continue accompanying me with your prayers. Thank you very much.
Translation of the Spanish original by Virginia M. Forrester