NEW YORK, MARCH 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Equality for women will only be accomplished if the differences and complementarity between the sexes are recognized, the Vatican says.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, said that today at the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly, which focused on “the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
“The legitimate quest for equality between men and women has achieved positive results in the area of equality of rights,” the archbishop said. “This quest needs to be accompanied by the awareness that equality goes hand in hand with and does not endanger, much less contradict, the recognition of both the difference and complementarity between men and women.
“Without this recognition the struggle for equality would not be authentic.”
Archbishop Migliore’s address came on the International Day of the Woman, celebrated each March 8.
The 54-year-old archbishop mentioned that two tendencies impede the efforts to bring equality between the sexes.
The first is an “antagonistic approach which exalts opposition between them,” the prelate said. “This approach juxtaposes woman against man and vice versa, while the identity and role of one is emphasized with the aim of merely diminishing that of the other.
“A second tendency is to blur, if not entirely deny, the differences between men and women. In order to avoid the domination of one sex over the other, their differences tend to be obscured or viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning.
“Physical difference is often minimized, while the purely cultural dimension is maximized and held to be primary.”
Citing microfinancing as a successful way to promote women’s rights, the archbishop explained that the Catholic Church has a history of success in that field.
“Catholic Relief Services, which operates in 99 countries from all continents, began microfinance programs in 1988 in five countries,” he explained. “Now programs are operational in at least 30 countries, with more than 850,000 clients, of whom almost 75% are women.
“The program focuses on the poor, especially poor women, in remote rural communities where there is no access to financial services.”
Archbishop Migliore also appealed for better education, especially for women.
“Hand in hand with the empowering benefits brought about by initiatives like microfinance, goes the need for education and awareness-raising, especially at the level of the local community,” he said. “Education for women in particular remains the most vital tool in the promotion of equality between men and women and in the empowerment of women to contribute fully to society.”