Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave Saturday to participants in the Seminar of Study on the theme “God Entrusts the Human Being to Woman” (cf. MD, 30), organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem of Blessed John Paul II.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
I shared with you, though briefly, the important theme you addressed in these days: the vocation and mission of woman in our time. I thank you for your contribution. The occasion was the 25thanniversary of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem of Pope John Paul II: an historic document, the first of the Papal Magisterium dedicated to the topic of woman. You reflected further in particular on that point which states that God entrusts, in a special way, man, the human being, to woman (cf. no. 30).
What does this “special entrustment” mean? — this special entrustment of the human being to woman? It seems evident to me that my Predecessor was referring to maternity. So many things can change and have changed in the cultural and social evolution, but the fact remains that it is woman who conceives, bears in her womb and gives birth to the children of men. And this isn’t simply a biological fact, but entails a wealth of implications be it for the woman herself, for her way of being, be it for her relations, for the way of positing respect for human life and for life in general. By calling woman to maternity, God has entrusted the human being to her in an altogether special way.
Here, however, there are two dangers that are always present, two opposed extremes that mortify woman and her vocation. The first is to reduce maternity to a social role, to a task, even if noble, but which in fact puts to one side woman with her potentials, does not appreciate her fully in the building of the community, either in the civil or the ecclesial ambit. And, as a reaction to this, there is the other danger, in the opposite sense, that of promoting a sort of emancipation that, to occupy the areas taken away from the male, abandons the female with the precious traits that characterize her. And here I would like to stress how woman has a particular sensibility for the “things of God,” especially in helping us to understand mercy, tenderness and the love that God has for us. I like to think also that the Church is not the “il” Church [the masculine], it is “la” Church [the feminine]. The Church is woman, is Mother, and this is beautiful. You must give thought to reflecting further on this.
Mulieris dignitatem is placed in this context and offers a profound, organic reflection with a solid anthropological base illumined by Revelation. We must begin from here for the endeavor of further reflection and promotion, something I have already hoped for many times. It is also important to ask ourselves in the Church: what presence does woman have? I suffer – I tell the truth – when I see in the Church or in some ecclesial organizations that the role of service – which we all have and must have – that woman’s role of service slides towards a role of servitude. I don’t know if it is said like this in Italian. Do you understand me? Service. When I see women doing things of servitude, it is because what a woman should do is not understood. What presence does woman have in the Church? Can she be largely appreciated? It is a reality that I have very much at heart and because of this I wanted to meet with you – against the regulation, because a meeting of this nature is not programmed – and to bless you and your commitment. Thank you. Let us take it forward together. May Mary Most Holy, great woman, Mother of Jesus and of all God’s children, accompany you. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]