ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE NATIONAL CONGRESS
SPONSORED BY THE ITALIAN WOMEN'S CENTRE
Saturday, 25 January 2014
Dear Friends of the Italian Women’s Centre,
On this occasion of the Congress of your Association, I welcome you and offer
you my cordial greetings. I thank your President for the words with which she
introduced our meeting.
I give thanks to the Lord with you for all the good which the Italian Women’s
Centre has accomplished during its almost 70 years of life, for the works you
have implemented in the field of education and human advancement, and for the
witness it has given on the role of women in society and in the ecclesial
community. In fact, in the span of these last decades, along with other cultural
and social transformations, the woman’s identity and role in the family, in
society and in the Church, have seen notable changes, and in general the
participation and responsibility of women has been increasing.
The discernment by the Magisterium of the Popes has also been and is
important in this process. In a special way we should mention Bl. John Paul II’s
Mulieris Dignitatem of 1988, on the Dignity and Vocation of Women, a
document that, in line with the teaching of Vatican II, recognized the moral
strength of woman, her spiritual strength (cf. n. 30); and we also remember the
Message for the 1995 World Day of Peace on the theme “Women: Teachers of Peace”.
I recalled the indispensable contribution which women make to society,
particularly through the sensitivity and intuition they show to others, the weak
and the vulnerable. I congratulate you on seeing that many women share pastoral
responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and
offering new contributions to theological reflection. Indeed, I hoped that
increasing space may be offered to women for a more widespread and incisive
presence in the Church (cf.
Evangelium Gaudium, n. 103).
These new opportunities and responsibilities which have opened, and which I
sincerely hope may further expand by the presence and work of women, both within
the ecclesial and civil and professional spheres, cannot make us forget the
woman’s irreplaceable role in the family. The gifts of refinement, particular
sensitivity and tenderness, with which the woman’s spirit is richly endowed,
represent not only a genuine strength for the life of the family, for spreading
a climate of serenity and harmony, but a reality without which the human
vocation cannot be fulfilled.
If in the world of work and in the public sphere a more incisive contribution
of women’s genius is important, this contribution remains essential within the
family, which for we Christians is not simply a private place, but rather that
“domestic Church”, whose health and prosperity is a condition for the health and
prosperity of the Church and of society itself. Let us think of Our Lady: Our
Lady creates something in the Church that priests, bishops and Popes cannot
create. She is the authentic feminine genius. And let us think about Our Lady in
families — about what Our Lady does in a family. It is clear that the presence
of a woman in the domestic sphere is more necessary than ever, indeed for the
transmission of sound moral principles and for the transmission of the faith
itself to future generations.
At this point one spontaneously asks: how can one increase an effective
presence in so many areas of the public sphere, in the world of work and in the
places where the most important decisions are taken, and at the same time
maintain a presence and preferential and wholly special attention to the family?
And this is the field for discernment which, in addition to the reflection on
the reality of women in society, requires assiduous and persevering prayer.
It is in dialogue with God, that is illumined by his Word and watered by the
grace of the sacraments, that the Christian woman seeks ever anew to respond to
the Lord’s call, in her practical circumstances.
Such prayer is always supported by Mary’s maternal presence. May, she, who
cared for her divine Son, who prompted the first miracle at the Wedding Feast of
Cana, who was present on Calvary and at Pentecost, indicate to you the path to
take in order to deepen the meaning and role of women in society in order to be
completely faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to your mission in the world.