.- Pope Francis met with experts on women’s issues today in Rome, affirming that the Church must continue to work for a more profound understanding of women and their roles.
“Also in the Church it is important to ask ourselves: what presence does woman have? Can it be valued more?” the Pope asked.
He met with experts who had participated in a seminar marking the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic letter, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” The three-day seminar was sponsored by the Pontifical Council of the Laity.
Pope Francis said the presence of women in the Church is “a reality that is very much on my heart.” He said he wanted to meet the seminar participants “and bless you and your task.”
He noted that John Paul II’s apostolic letter teaches that “God entrusts man, the human being, to woman in a special way.”
“What does this ‘special entrustment’ mean?” asked Pope Francis.
“I think it is evident that my predecessor refers to motherhood,” he explained. “And this is not simply a biological fact, but it involves a wealth of implications both for woman herself, for her way of being, and for her relationships, for a way of extending respect for human life and for life in general.”
The Pope then warned of two ever-present dangers, “two extreme opposites that degrade woman and her vocation.”
“The first is to reduce motherhood to a social role, to a task, however noble, but in fact sets apart woman with her potential, not fully valuing her in the construction of the community,” he noted.
The second peril is that of “promoting a type of emancipation that, in order to occupy the space stolen by the masculine, abandons the feminine with its priceless elements.”
He said women can help provide better insight into the nature of God.
“Woman has a particular sensibility for the ‘things of God’, above all in helping us to understand the mercy, the tenderness, and the love that God has for us,” he emphasized.
Pope Francis then abandoned his prepared remarks to convey his sadness at the situation of women who are reduced to roles of mere “servitude,” distinguishing it from the “servanthood” to which all Christians are called.
“I suffer – speaking truthfully! – when I see in the Church or in some ecclesial organizations that the role of service that we all have, and that we must have – but that the role of service of the woman becomes role of ‘servitude’.”
He then encouraged the experts to continue their work in order to better understand the role of women in the Church.
“Let us move forward together!” he exclaimed. “May most holy Mary – a great woman, eh? – the Mother of Jesus and of all God’s children, accompany us. Thank you!”
The Pope then took the time to greet each person in the hall, including the families of the experts present.
One little girl began to cry “mama!” as she stood near Pope Francis.
He smiled and turned to the women in the room, joking “that’s maternity, eh?”