Pope Francis appeals for giving a voice to women, against violence, and for equality during his meeting in the Vatican with participants from the ‘Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities’ (SACRU) and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation.
Pope Francis has praised women, called for treating them as equals, and has decried violence and abuse against them.
He made these observations when meeting with participants from the ‘Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities’, SACRU, and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, in the Vatican on Saturday 11 March.
The Holy Father received them after he had written the preface to their joint research “More Women’s Leadership for a Better World: Care as a Driver for our Common Home.”
The Pope recalled frequent discrimination at work, often due to maternity, of the pay gap between the two sexes, but also of the heroic work of so many anonymous women next door, “the silent force of our days.”
“Diversity,” he warned, recalling the importance of greater inclusiveness, “must never result in inequality,” but rather in a grateful and reciprocal welcome.
Respecting dignity and rights
“Every person must be respected in his or her dignity and fundamental rights,” the Pope reiterated, thinking of the drama of violence against women.
“We cannot remain silent in the face of this scourge of our times: the woman is used. They pay you less: and well, you are a woman. Then, woe betide you if you go with your belly, because if they see you pregnant, they don’t give you the job, they send you home. This is one of the ways they use in big cities today: discarding women, for example, with maternity. It is important to see this reality, it is a scourge.”
“Let us not leave women who are victims of abuse, exploitation, marginalisation and undue pressure, such as those I mentioned with work, voiceless! Let us be the voice of their pain and strongly denounce the injustices they are subjected to,” he said, “often in contexts that deprive them of any possibility of defence and redemption.”
No to exclusion
Pope Francis’ clear rejection of any form of discrimination against women, as well as other weak categories of society. Hence the call to ‘walk together,’ integrating everyone, ‘especially the most fragile economically, culturally, racially, and because of gender.
“No one should be excluded,” he said, noting, “this is a sacred principle.”
“In fact,” he continued, “God the Creator’s project is an ‘essentially inclusive’ project, which puts at the centre precisely ‘the inhabitants of the existential peripheries’; it is a project that, like a mother, looks at her children as different fingers on the same hand.”
Women and the common good
Women’s contribution to the common good “is irreplaceable” and “undeniable” in this sense, according to the Pontiff.
This, he said, is demonstrated by the women of Sacred Scripture, decisive at key moments in the history of salvation; or even in the history of the Church, figures such as Saints Catherine of Siena, Josephine Bakhita, Edith Stein, Teresa of Calcutta, “impressive for their determination, courage, fidelity, ability to suffer and transmit joy, honesty, humility, and tenacity.”
Silent force of our times
Many examples of daily heroism lived in concealment also return to Pope Francis’ mind, as he remembered the many women that the then-Father Bergoglio met on the bus going to the Buenos Aires prison: ninety percent of the people visiting the prison were women. Mothers are the silent force of our days according to the Pope, who also tells the story of another woman. She was of humble conditions, without a husband, lived in a very small house, and every morning she went out to go cleaning. Before closing the door, she would turn her eyes to her son asleep on the bed in the dining room, after the previous night’s drunkenness. The mother’s constant, daily gaze changed that boy’s heart over time.
“Our history is literally studded with such women, both the famous and the unknown – but not to God! – who keep families, societies and the Church moving forward; often with problematic, vicious husbands… the children go on…”
“We realise this even here, in the Vatican,” he said, “where women who ‘work hard’, even in roles of great responsibility, are now many, thank God. For example, since the vice-governor is a woman, things work better here: much better, much better. And other places, where there are women, secretaries, the Economic Council, for example, there are six cardinals and six lay people: all men. Now it has been renewed, two years ago: one layman and five laywomen, and it started to work, because they have a different capacity: of ability to act and also of patience.”
Mind, heart and hands
Similarly, at a time of profound transformation, faced with epochal changes such as the progressive and rapid development of artificial intelligences, women – according to the Pope – can help humanity not to decay and have much to say through their ability to synthesise the three languages of mind, heart, and hands.
It is a synthesis proper only to the human being and which the woman embodies in a marvelous manner, as no machine could achieve, because a machine does not feel the heart of a child a mother is carrying beating within her…a machine does not weep with pain and joy as (when) a mother shares in the pains and joys of the people she loves.
Pope Francis thanked the participants in the audience and praised the book presented to him, “the fruit of a remarkable variety of contributions” and of the “hitherto unprecedented collaboration between universities around the world and an entirely lay Vatican Foundation.
“A new modality,” he emphasised, “in which the richness of content derives from the contribution of complementary experiences and skills, and, through which, ‘important values,” are conveyed, “not only for a book, but for a better world.’
With thanks to Vatican News and Paolo Ondarza, where this article originally appeared.