The bread you store up belongs to the hungry; the cloak that lies in your chest belongs to the naked; the gold you have hidden in the ground belongs to the poor.
St Basil the Great
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“I must admit we are a bit late in developing a theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology.”
(Pope Francis, Sept 29, 2015)
The Vatican City State has a daily newspaper called L’Osservatore Romano (The Roman Observer). It reports on “the activities of the Holy See and events taking place in the Church and the world. It is owned by the Holy See but is not an official publication.”
The newspaper publishes a monthly supplement. Women and Francis is the theme of the January 2020 issue of Women-Church-World. It was released December 28.
As Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service (CNS) states: “The 24-page magazine opens with ‘The urgency of overcoming a monochrome church,’ an article by Stefania Falasca, a Vatican correspondent for the Italian bishops’ daily newspaper, Avvenire.
“Taking Pope Francis’ repeated remarks about the church ‘being feminine’ and about how the church cannot be itself without the presence, ministry, input and vision of women, Falasca argues that for the pope, the question of women and the church goes to the heart of one’s vision of the church and what it means to say the church is a communion…In another article, Marinella Perroni, a biblical scholar at Rome’s Pontifical University of St Anselm, noted how Pope Francis has said on occasion that women do not need simply more ‘functions’ in the church, but that the church needs a ‘theology of the woman’.”
Carol Glatz (CNS) reported that during a meeting on November 16, 2019, with members and consultants of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, “Pope Francis said that although people may have different ways of praying or of serving their parish or the poor, the Catholic Church needs laity, priests, religious, parishes and lay movements to collaborate in order to be truly ‘catholic’.
“More also must be done to include women in roles of advising and governance, but without reducing them to having just a ‘functional’ role…What is very important is women’s advice’…The Church, as a mother, wishes for ‘harmony among all her children and does not engage in favoritism or partiality,’ he said. ‘Therefore, it is important also for (the dicastery) to always propose positive models of collaboration among laity, priests and consecrated men and women, among priests and faithful, among diocesan and parish organizations, and lay movements and associations, among young and old, to avoid sterile comparisons and rivalries and always to encourage fraternal collaboration with the aim of the common good of the one family which is the Church.’
“The identity and mission of the lay faithful involves being able to look upon others as a fellow brother or sister. You are not ‘social engineers’ or ‘ecclesiastics’ who draw up strategies to apply in the whole world to spread a certain religious ideology among laity… You are called to think and act like ‘brothers and sisters in the faith,’ rooted in a personal encounter with God, nourished by the sacraments…”
In March 2009 and May 2015, I attended two international conferences in Rome that drew on the many gifts that women bring to Church and society. Both conferences were organised by the then Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (Cardinal Peter Turkson), together with the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) and the World Women’s Alliance for Life and Family (WWALF).
The theme of the first one was Life, Family and Development: The role of women in the promotion of human rights. The theme of the second was: Women and the post-2015 development agenda: the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In his messages to participants at the conferences, Pope Francis said: “The genius of women to mobilize and organize endows them with the skills and motivation to develop ever-expanding networks for sharing experiences and generating new ideas” (2009).
“May your work be marked first and foremost by professional competence, without self-interest or superficial activism, but with generous dedication. In this way you will manifest the countless God-given gifts which women have to offer, encouraging others to promote sensitivity, understanding and dialogue in settling conflicts big and small, in healing wounds, in nurturing all life at every level of society, and in embodying the mercy and tenderness which bring reconciliation and unity to our world. All this is part of that ‘feminine genius’ of which our society stands in such great need” (2015).
May our Church find ways of recognising our “feminine genius” as we all seek to build the common good.