Initially started in June 2015, the group was born from the Pontifical Council for Culture's Feb. 5-7 plenary assembly that year, which was dedicated to the theme “La Cultura Femminile,” or, “The Feminine Culture.”
Several women were asked to help prepare for the plenary, and worked in two separate groups with members of the council to organize the event and define specific topics of conversation.
After the plenary, Ravasi decided to establish the group as a permanent entity. He invited the women who prepared the plenary to stay, and reached out to several others from various professions, including ambassadors, journalists, doctors, professors, actresses and teachers, among others.
In their annual meetings, the group focuses their discussion on proposals surrounding the dicastery’s work in the fields of artificial intelligence, neuroscience, sport and human anthropology.
Consuelo Corradi, coordinator of the Women’s Consultation Group and vice rector for research and international relations at the LUMSA University of Rome, told journalists that they waited to present the group because they wanted to be able to show something that was already well established and running.
The theme that links all of the members together, she said, is “the female difference,” because “there’s a perspective from women (and) there’s a way of living human life that’s specific to women.”
“It’s not a theological discourse, what we do inside the group. One can have an ideological discourse on feminine and masculine, but we try to avoid it,” she said. Instead, the women seek to bring their concrete experience as wives, mothers, friends and professionals in order to discuss “universal themes from a feminine perspective.”
Released during the official presentation of the group was their first project – a magazine titled “Cultures and Faith” including contributions from various members of the group in different languages that reflect on a variety of different topics.
Group members from various fields and cultures who attended the presentation – including Irish ambassador to the Holy See Emma Madigan – voiced their hope that the group would provide a platform to generate creative ideas given their professional backgrounds, and to foster greater collaboration with men on important issues.
In her comments to CNA, Orsuto said the variety of backgrounds and expertise of the members is “an enrichment for the Council,” especially given the fact that there were no women in senior positions in the dicastery beforehand.
Since last year’s plenary, the women have had a chance to evaluate various projects of the council and “and give some insight into doing things with a ‘feminine touch,’” she said, explaining that for her, the group is a concrete example of Pope Francis' call for a more “incisive” feminine presence in the Church.
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Italian psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Laura Bastianelli touched on the necessity of collaboration between men and women as “a creative process.”
“We want to set up a process that is really cooperating” with one another, she said. “This is a way to build together, not trying to compete.”
“Competition is not the key to the resolution of solving problems between women and men. It’s a cooperation, so we want to co-create starting from the group in the dicastery and then to print a model that can be replicated.”
Bastianelli said she also sees the establishment of the group as a direct response to Pope Francis’ call for a greater inclusion of women in the life of the Church, and is hoping to use her background in psychology to help shape the council’s projects.
Currently a professor at Salesian university, Bastianelli trains psychotherapists and specializes in youth psychology. She is the founder of an association dedicated to working with youth and preventing diseases in children and young people.
“It’s a big work, it’s very demanding, because there’s a lot to do,” she said, explaining that the consultation group’s magazine includes an article from her on youth culture in which she reflects on difficulties today’s youth face.