• John Thavis

Pope Francis: Church urgently needs to offer space to women

Updated: Feb 19

Evidently, Pope Francis does not share Cardinal Raymond Burke’s concern about an overly “feminized” church.


Addressing a Vatican conference on women today, the pope said there was an urgent need to offer space to women in the life of the church, taking into consideration the “changed cultural and social sensibilities.”


“It is desirable, therefore, for a feminine presence that is more capillary and incisive in the community, so that we can see many women involved in pastoral responsibilities, in accompaniment of individuals, families and groups, as well as in theological reflection,” he said.


Not surprisingly, the pope made no mention of women priests. He has previously said the door is closed to that possibility.


Cardinal Burke made headlines a month ago when he said that Catholic parish and liturgical activities had become so influenced by women and so feminine that “men do not want to get involved.”


Pope Francis said it was important for women to be full participants in church and social life, and not just feel like guests.


He offered a special thanks to the many women who work with families, in religious education and other pastoral programs, and in social and economic services.


“You women know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated more by a willingness to give one’s time than to occupy spaces, to welcome rather than to exclude,” he said.


The pope said society, at least in the West, had wisely moved away from seeing women as subordinate to men. At the same time, he said, it was a mistake to try to impose a model of “absolute equivalence” between men and women. He said the proper relationship is an equality that recognizes and appreciates the differences between the sexes.


The pope also condemned violence against women, saying the female body was often attacked and disfigured, even by those who ought to be “guardians and life companions.” Domestic violence was a topic of discussion at the meeting, which was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture.


“The many forms of slavery, commercialization and mutilation of the woman’s body challenge us to work to defeat this form of degradation that reduces it to a pure object to be sold off on various markets,” the pope said.


He offered a special thought for the many women living in poverty and on the margins of society, in conditions of risk and exploitation.

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