.- Pope Francis met with a group of Italian women today, expressing his desire for women to participate more widely in the Church and in society without neglecting the family.
“I have been pleased to see many women share some pastoral responsibilities with priests in accompanying people, families, and groups, (just) as in theological reflection; and I hope that more spaces are widened for a feminine presence in the Church that is more widespread and incisive,” he said on Jan. 25 to members of the “Centro Italiano Femminile,” a women's group founded to promote democracy in Italy based on respect for the human person and Christian principles.
“These new spaces and responsibilities that are open, and that I vividly hope can further expand to the presence and activity of women, as much in the ecclesial sphere as in that of civil and professional, can not make us forget the irreplaceable role of women in the family,” Pope Francis emphasized.
Women’s particular qualities of sensitivity toward other people “represent not only a genuine strength for the lives of families, for the irradiation of a climate of serenity and harmony, but a reality without which the vocation human would not be able to be realized.”
Thus, urged the Pope, it is important that women be involved in both the public and domestic sphere. In fact, he said, one influences the other.
“If in the world of work and in the public sphere, a more incisive contribution by the feminine genius is important, this contribution remains essential in the environment of the family, which for us Christians is not simply a private place, but that of the 'domestic Church,' whose health and prosperity are the conditions for the health and prosperity of the Church and of society itself.”
Particularly in recent decades, the Pontiff acknowledged, “the identity and role of woman, in the family, in society, and in the Church, have experienced significant changes, and in general the participation and the responsibility of women has grown.”
While this is a positive development, the changes in women’s roles raise new issues, he noted.
“At this point the question arises: how you can grow in the effective presence of many areas of the public sphere, in the world of work and in places where the most important decisions are adopted, and at the same time maintain a presence and preferential attention and everything unique in and for the family?”
The Pope’s answer to the question of work-life balance hinged on the virtue of prudence: “here is the field of discernment which, in addition to reflection on the reality of women in society, requires constant prayer and perseverance.”
Because each woman has different circumstances, she must “always seek anew to respond to the Lord, in her concrete conditions,” through “dialogue with God, illuminated by his word, irrigated by the grace of the sacraments.”
Pope Francis also encouraged the women to turn to Mary as an example.
“She, who cares for her divine Son, has gained his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, she who was also present on Calvary and at Pentecost, indicates to us the way to go to better understand the meaning and role of women in society and to be totally faithful to the Lord Jesus and to your mission in the world.”