Pope Francis has called for more room to be given to the presence of women in the Church but for it to be balanced with preferential attention to be given to the family.
Addressing an audience representatives of the Centro Italiano Femminile (Italian Women’s Centre) on Saturday, the Holy Father first of all highlighted the importance of Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter “Mulieris dignitatem” on the dignity and vocation of women, and his Message for the 1995 World Day for Peace on the theme “Women: teachers of peace”.
“I too have considered the indispensable contribution of women in society,” Pope Francis said. “I have rejoiced in seeing many women sharing some pastoral responsibility with priests in accompanying people, families and groups, as in theological reflection, and I have expressed my hope that greater room can be made for a more capillary and incisive female presence in the Church”.
But he pointed out that if, in the world of work and in the public sphere “a more incisive contribution by the female gender is important,” then this contribution also remains “indispensable” within the family.
For Christians, he stressed, the family is a “domestic Church” whose health and prosperity “is a condition for the health and prosperity of the Church of society itself.”
“At this point it is natural to ask: how is it possible for women to increase their effective presence in many contexts within the public sphere, in the world of work and in places where the most important decisions are made, and at the same time maintaining their presence and preferential and entirely special attention in and for the family? Here it is the field of discernment that, aside from reflection on the reality of women in society, presupposes assiduous and persistent prayer,” the Pope said.
“It is in dialogue with God, enlightened by prayer, that the Christian woman continually searches to answer the Lord’s call, in the reality of her situation,” the Pope continued. “This is a prayer that is always supported by the maternal presence of Mary. She, who cared for her divine Son, who propitiated his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, who was present on Calvary and at the Pentecost, shows you the road to take to deepen the meaning and role of women in society and to be fully faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to your mission in the world”.
The Centro Italiano Femminile was established in 1944 for the purpose of co-ordinating women and associations of a Christian nature to contribute to the reconstruction of the country through democratic participation, human advancement and solidarity.
Currently it seeks to support a democracy of “solidarity and co-existence” based on respect for human rights and the dignity of the person, in accordance with Christian spirit and principles, the Italian Constitution and laws, and European and international legislation.
In his address, the Pope thanked the organisation for their work, noting that society and the Church has seen “significant changes” and that in general the “participation and responsibility of women has increased”.