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Poverty, violence hinder progress for many women, says nuncio at U.N.

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UNITED NATIONS — Conditions in many parts of the world force women and girls to bear the burden of carrying out everyday chores for their families and communities, keeping many of them from getting even a basic education, the Vatican’s U.N. nuncio said Oct. 6.

A Palestinian woman harvests wheat by hand on a farm near Salfit, West Bank, in 2016. Education is essential in enabling women in every country “to become dignified agents of their own development,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations Oct. 6 at U.N. headquarters in New York. (CNS photo/Alaa Badrneh, EPA)

Females are often the victims of sexual and other violence, which prevents them from improving life for themselves and their families, said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations. Migrant women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these situations, he added.

He addressed the issue of women’s advancement during a session at the United Nations of the Third Committee, which focuses on social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

“Young women in rural areas are disproportionately involved in unpaid domestic work and especially bear the greatest burden when access to clean water and sanitation is not readily available,” Archbishop Auza said. “They are forced to spend considerable time and effort collecting water for the community, and in doing so, their access to basic education is often thwarted, not to mention that, in many isolated places, they are also exposed to risks of violence.”

Failure to achieve “that basic human right” of universal access to safe drinkable water “can undermine other human rights, as it is a prerequisite for their realization,” he said.

Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si’” points to “the abandonment and neglect … experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services,” Archbishop Auza said, quoting the document. In many areas, the pope noted, “some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life.”

Women and girls often bear “the heaviest burden from these deprivations,” the archbishop said.

Regarding education, “significant progress has been made toward parity between boys and girls from families of relative wealth or decent economic standing,” the archbishop said, but women and girls who live in poverty lack schooling, literacy skills and opportunities for adult education.

Adolescent girls “are at the greatest risk of exclusion from education due to social and economic hardships,” Archbishop Auza said. “Whenever young women and girls do not have access to education, they are hindered from becoming dignified agents of their own development.”

To change this reality, the “basic material needs of every school-age girl living in rural areas must be addressed,” Archbishop Auza said. One initiative that has “proven efficient,” he said, is providing school meals to reduce girls’ absenteeism. Such efforts should be encouraged “to guarantee access to education to each and every girl,” he added.

A current partnership between local farmers, including women, and the World Food Program of the United Nations to provide “homegrown school meals” in 37 countries is “a hopeful example,” Archbishop Auza said. The effort “attends to the needs of girls and boys, fosters education and increases market access for women, all at the same time,” he said.

Based in Rome, the World Food Program is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. It provides food aid to an average of 80 million people in 76 countries each year.

Addressing the violence women and girls face, Archbishop Auza again quoted Pope Francis in saying that eliminating violence is impossible “until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed.”

“Through poverty and exclusion, adolescent girls, especially those in rural areas, also experience heightened vulnerability to sexual exploitation, child marriage and other unacceptable forms of violence,” the archbishop said. “The horrifying prevalence of violence against women, thus, remains a salient and sad example of the deep connection between economic exclusion and violence.”

Archbishop Auza also discussed the current global migration crisis and its effect on migrant women and girls in particular, reminding the global community it has a responsibility “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate” migrants and refugees.

“Millions of women and girls are fleeing violent conflicts or extreme poverty only to find themselves exploited by traffickers and manipulators along perilous routes and even in host communities,” the archbishop said.

The Vatican’s U.N. delegation, he said, “strongly supports the international community in its efforts to raise awareness and take concrete steps to prevent the abhorrent phenomenon of violence perpetrated against migrant women and girls.”

“Women often heroically defend and protect their families, sacrificing much to achieve a better life for themselves and their children,” Archbishop Auza said. “They deserve to be assisted and supported in order to realize their legitimate aspirations to a better life for themselves and for their loved ones.”

He said the Vatican “remains strongly committed” to endeavors aimed “at truly protecting women’s dignity, while promoting their integral development and advancement within the family and society.”

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The intellectual and spiritual power of women in the early church

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Catholic News Service

There’s an old saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Read more »

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Pope Francis consoles women rescued from sex traffickers

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Continuing his Year of Mercy practice of going one Friday a month to visit people facing special struggles, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to a community helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution.

Pope Francis sits with members of the Pope John XXIII Community in Rome Aug.12. The pontiff paid a surprise visit to the community that is helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis sits with members of the Pope John XXIII Community in Rome Aug.12. The pontiff paid a surprise visit to the community that is helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The pope visited the house operated by the John XXIII Community in northeast Rome the afternoon of Aug. 12. The community members, the Vatican said, were “20 women liberated from the slavery of the prostitution racket. Six of them come from Romania, four from Albania, seven from Nigeria and one each from Tunisia, Italy and Ukraine.”

The women’s average age is 30, said a Vatican press statement. “All of them have endured serious physical violence” and are now being protected.

One of the young women, identified only as East European, told Vatican Radio she never dreamed she would be able to see the pope up close and “tell my story to a holy person like him. I was very emotional and kept crying because I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing.”

The young woman said she told the pope that she had been offered a job as a caregiver in Italy, but the offer was fake. Instead, “they kept me locked in an apartment for two weeks, drugged me, tied me up and the men, they did what they wanted with my body.”

She said she was taken to Italy in the trunk of a car and forced into prostitution. When she disobeyed her traffickers, she was beaten, cut with a knife and burned with cigarettes.

When volunteers from the John XXIII Community started visiting her on the streets, she said, not only did she not believe she could escape, but she did not think she was worth saving. “You feel like a sack of trash” thrown on the side of the road, she said.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis asked forgiveness of the women on behalf of all the men who had used and abused them and for the governments that continue to do little to stop human trafficking.

“You are witnesses of resurrection,” the pope told them.

Pope Francis’ visit, the Vatican said, is another call to combat human trafficking, a reality the pope has described as “a crime against humanity” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.”

The pope’s “Mercy Friday” visits are part of his personal observance of the Holy Year of Mercy; while leaders of the communities and structures he is visiting are given some advance notice, there is no publicity and no open press availability. Usually, the Vatican releases a few photographs and sometimes a short video clip afterward.

Since January, the pope has visited a home for the aged and a home for people in a persistent vegetative state; a community for recovering drug addicts; a refugee center near Rome and a refugee camp in Greece; a L’Arche community; and a home for sick and aged priests.

The Vatican includes among the Mercy Friday practice several of Pope Francis’ activities the last Friday of July in Poland: his visit to the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp and to a pediatric hospital and his attendance at the World Youth Day Way of the Cross service, which involved young Iraqis and Syrians as well as youths from other war-torn countries and difficult situations.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Christians should apologize for fostering hostility toward gay people, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ARMENIA — Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis closes his eyes as he reacts to a question from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief, aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. The pope reacted as Wooden mentioned the June 12 shooting that killed 49 at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis closes his eyes as he reacts to a question from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief, aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. The pope reacted as Wooden mentioned the June 12 shooting that killed 49 at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.

Spending close to an hour answering questions from reporters traveling with him, Pope Francis was asked to comment on remarks reportedly made a few days previously by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, that the Catholic Church must apologize to gay people for contributing to their marginalization.

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, he said. “They must not be discriminated against. They must be respected, pastorally accompanied.”

The pope said people have a right to complain about certain gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said.

Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of a “closed Catholic culture,” good Catholics would not even enter the house of a person who was divorced. “The culture has changed and thanks be to God!”

“We Christians have much to apologize for and not just in this area,” he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual persons. “Ask forgiveness and not just say we’’re sorry. Forgive us, Lord.”

Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than fathers, “a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good, consoles.”

Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the world and “many Mother Teresas,” but people often do not see them because “holiness is modest.”

Like any other community of human beings, the Catholic Church is made up of “good people and bad people,” he said. “The grain and the weeds — Jesus says the kingdom is that way. We should not be scandalized by that,” but pray that God makes the wheat grow more and the weeds less.

Pope Francis also was asked about his agreeing to a request by the women’s International Union of Superiors General to set up a commission to study the historic role of female deacons with a view toward considering the possibility of instituting such a ministry today.

Both Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the sisters’ group, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have sent him lists of names of people to serve on the commission, the pope said. But he has not yet chosen the members.

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

The pope also joked about a president who once said that the best way to bury someone’s request for action was to name a commission to study it.

Turning serious, though, Pope Francis insisted the role of women in the Catholic Church goes well beyond any offices they hold and he said about 18 months ago he had named a commission of female theologians to discuss women’s contributions to the life of the church.

“Women think differently than we men do,” he said, “and we cannot make good, sound decisions without listening to the women.”

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also said:

  • He believes “the intentions of Martin Luther” were not wrong in wanting to reform the church, but “maybe some of his methods were not right.” The church in the 1500s, he said, “was not exactly a model to imitate.”
  • He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.
  • Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a “wise man,” a valued adviser and a person dedicated to praying for the entire church, but he can no longer be considered to be exercising papal ministry. “There is only one pope.”
  • “Brexit,” the referendum in which the people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, shows just how much work remains to be done by the EU in promoting continental unity while respecting the differences of member countries.
  • The Great and Holy Council of the world’s Orthodox churches was an important first step in Orthodoxy speaking with one voice, even though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches did not attend the meeting in Crete.
  • When he travels to Azerbaijan in September, he will tell the nation’s leaders and people that the Armenian leaders and people want peace. The two countries have been in a situation of tension since 1988 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Vatican newspaper runs articles on possibility of women preaching at Mass

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published several commentaries reflecting on the possibility of allowing laypeople, including women, to preach at Mass. Read more »

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Role of women, diversity in unity among issues debated at synod

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Several women participating in the Synod of Bishops on the family said they are encouraged that their views are not only respected but included in the discussions taking place.

Bishop John Baptist Lee Keh-mien of Hsinchu, Taiwan, Bishop Harold Perera of Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, and an unidentified bishop arrive for a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Bishop John Baptist Lee Keh-mien of Hsinchu, Taiwan, Bishop Harold Perera of Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, and an unidentified bishop arrive for a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“It’s not just a feeling,” said Moira McQueen, director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. “Many of the things that we have said are included in the reports. I am very happy that more women are being included, but once inside the actual meeting, I don’t feel any distinct separation.”

Several synod participants spoke to the press Oct. 13 during a Vatican briefing. Speaking alongside McQueen were Therese Nyirabukeye, a Rwandan who works for the African Federation of Family Action, and Benedictine Abbot Jeremias Schroder, president of the Benedictine Congregation of St. Ottilien.

Although both McQueen and Nyirabukeye said they felt included in the various discussions taking place at the synod, Abbot Schroder said he had hoped for a greater presence of women religious. He confirmed that a request was made by the men’s Union of Superior Generals to give half of their 10 places to representatives of the women’s religious orders. After a meeting with the secretariat of the synod, the women were given three places, although they do not have a vote like their male peers do.

“There is a small recognition that women religious must be present,” he said. “I had hoped that those nuns, who are involved in so many apostolates of the family, would be a much greater presence than it is currently.”

The three synod participants also were asked about the synod discussions on diversity in unity and about sensitive issues such as allowing divorced and civilly remarried couples to receive Communion or pastoral ministry to homosexual men and women.

Abbot Schroder said he counted about 20 speeches in favor of dealing with those issues at a regional level and only about two or three bishops who spoke against it, maintaining that the unity of the universal church must remain intact. However, he also said that there have been no votes on concrete propositions, thus “it’s a bit difficult to ascertain with precision the mind of the assembly.”

“I’m from Germany and the issue of divorced and remarried people or (people who are) divorced and living in a stable union with children is felt very strongly and very broadly in the German Catholic public,” he said. “It seems to be much less of a concern elsewhere.”

Local pastoral solutions also may be the answer to addressing issues that different cultures view differently, such as the acceptance of homosexuality, he said.

“The social acceptance of homosexuality is culturally very diverse, and that also seems to me to be an area where bishops’ conferences should be allowed to formulate pastoral responses that are in tune with what can be preached and announced and lived in a prayerful context,” he said.

While agreeing that certain issues may be better or more easily dealt with locally, both McQueen and Nyirabukeye said the church also must look at the risks of allowing pastoral solutions at a regional level.

“Personally speaking, I believe that on one hand, it is better and positive to have this diversity, but on the other hand, I think there are some doctrinal aspects that should be maintained,” Nyirabukeye said.

“This is a very delicate issue,” she said, “and the synod fathers should examine it and then within the church they should really take time to better study and analyze all the consequences and concrete applications of it.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves

 

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Women should be full participants in life of the church, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Saying he knows the history of the subjugation of women continues to have a negative impact on how women are treated, Pope Francis called for greater roles for women in the church and for greater assistance and workplace flexibility to ensure they can make the best choices for themselves and their families.

Pope Francis told the Pontifical Council for Culture Feb. 7 that its study of women’s cultures was a topic “close to my heart,” and that he fully recognizes the need “to study new criteria and methods to ensure women feel they are not guests, but full participants in the various spheres of the life of society and the church.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, speaks as Monica Maggioni and Anna Maria Tarantola look on during a press conference at the Vatican Feb. 2. The press conference was held to present the theme, "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference," which will be discussed during the pontifical council's Feb. 4-7 plenary assembly. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, speaks as Monica Maggioni and Anna Maria Tarantola look on during a press conference at the Vatican Feb. 2. The press conference was held to present the theme, “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference,” which will be discussed during the pontifical council’s Feb. 4-7 plenary assembly. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“This challenge can no longer be postponed,” he said.

The preparatory document for the meeting said that in the West, more and more women between the ages of 20 and 50 are leaving the church. Many have “reached places of prestige within society and the workplace, but have no corresponding decisional role nor responsibility” within the church community.

Pope Francis told the council, whose members are all cardinals, bishops, priests and laymen, “I am convinced of the urgency of offering space to women in the life of the church and to welcoming them, taking into account specific and changing cultural and social sensitivities.”

“A more widespread and incisive female presence in the community is hoped for so that we can see many women involved in pastoral responsibilities, in the accompaniment of persons, families and groups, as well as in theological reflection,” he said.

While they are equal, he said, women and men tend to have different qualities, and the church and society need both.

“You women know how to incarnate the tender face of God, his mercy, which translates into a willingness to give your time rather than to just occupy space, and to welcome rather than exclude,” the pope said. “In this sense, I like to describe the feminine dimension of the church as a welcoming womb that regenerates life.”

The council’s preparatory document used the technical term “generativity” to discuss the aspect of women’s lives involving physically or symbolically desiring new life, bringing it into the world, caring for it and finally letting it go. Richard Rouse, a council official, said in essence it means “helping life flourish.”

Donna Orsuto, a U.S. professor of spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University, was part of the group of mostly Italian women who compiled the working document for the plenary meeting and was one of the speakers at the plenary.

Generativity, she said, means “sharing life from one generation to next,” including through parenthood, but also by mentoring others, teaching, creating jobs and many other ways.

Both men and women are called to be generative, she said, explaining that stagnation is the opposite of generativity. “The truly generative person is creative, brings life and energy, and it’s about thinking about the next generation.”

“The big challenge is not to stereotype women” in any discussion about equality and differences, she said. “The key is not to use the idea that men and women are different as a tool to suppress women. But to use it in a positive way,” encouraging women and men to work together, bringing their diverse gifts to the church and the world.

Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, president of the Canadian bishops’ conference and a member of the council, told Catholic News Service Feb. 6, the meeting created “spaces for dialogue” on a topic that brings together different ideas and lived experiences.

The archbishop, who was attending his first plenary meeting as a council member, said as soon as the topic was announced he sought additional input by reading and by talking to women, particularly women theologians, about their views on the proposed questions. It also gave him a further push to support programs that help Catholic women and men work together in the church, he said.

Asked if the council discussions made him think of any one particular woman, the archbishop responded, “my goddaughter, who is at university on an athletic scholarship. She is gifted in so many ways. The richness of her own life, the potential of her life and the world in which she is growing,” particularly all the choices that she faces, give the archbishop what he said was a “sense of wonderment.”

Pope Francis told the council that more must be done in society and in the workplace to ensure women really do have choices that enable them to use and develop their talents, exercise leadership roles and have a family if they choose.

“We must not leave women alone to carry this burden and to make decisions,” he said. “Rather, all institutions, including the church community, are called to ensure freedom of choice for women, so that they have the possibility to take on social and ecclesial responsibilities in a way that is in harmony with family life.”

 

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Vatican panel to discuss challenges women face in society and church

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Violence against women, cultural pressures regarding women’s physical appearance, attitudes that subjugate women or that ignore male-female differences and the growing alienation of women from the church in some parts of the world are themes the Pontifical Council for Culture is set to explore.

 

The council, whose members are all cardinals and bishops, has chosen to discuss the theme, “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference,” during its plenary assembly Feb. 4-7. A document outlining the theme was published in late January, and four women involved in writing it joined Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, council president, at a news conference Feb. 2 at the Vatican.

Women wait to read intentions Oct. 12 as Pope Francis celebrates a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican for two Canadians he canonized April 3 without requiring the verification of a miracle or a canonization ceremony. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Women wait to read intentions Oct. 12 as Pope Francis celebrates a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican for two Canadians he canonized April 3 without requiring the verification of a miracle or a canonization ceremony. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The cardinal announced to the press that he was planning to establish within his office a special group of female consultants to provide women’s opinions and points of view on a variety of issues.

He also noted that if priests had to follow the Jewish rules for a quorum for prayer — 10 men must be present — many of them would not be able to celebrate daily Mass, even though there would be dozens of women present in the church.

The council’s discussion document, drafted by a group of Italian women and women who have lived in Italy for years, looked at the continuing quest to find balance in promoting women’s equality while valuing the differences between women and men; the concrete and symbolic aspects of women’s potential for motherhood; cultural attitudes toward women’s bodies; and women and religion, including questions about their participation in church decision-making.

 

In preparing the document and the plenary discussions, the council sought input from women around the world. However, the process was not without criticism, particularly for the English version of a video featuring an Italian actress, Nanci Brilli, asking women to send in their experiences. Many women felt the use of a heavily made-up actress ran counter to the point of seeking input about the real lives of most women. The council quickly took the English version off YouTube.

 

At the news conference, Brilli said, “as a woman, a professional, a mother, I feel like this is the first time we have been asked for our opinion” by the church. “The women who responded do not want to be cardinals, but want to take part in the discussion.”

Participating for a year in the group that drafted the document, she said, was such a positive experience that it led to a renewal of her faith, but also to a willingness to do the video and open herself to comments. Some people, she said, instead of wanting to dialogue, “felt represented by making insults. That’s their problem.”

Cardinal Ravasi said the reactions from across Europe were mainly positive and garnered a variety of helpful input about women’s concerns, but in Anglo-Saxon countries, especially the United States and Canada, the reaction focused so strongly on the video — and not on women’s concerns and experience — that they decided to pull it.

Everything he’s done, he said, has garnered strong reaction ranging from enthusiasm to “those who even found satanic dimensions” in what he was doing. Some feel a need to take part in a discussion “by yelling,” he said.

 

The preparatory document looked at how much pressure women face regarding their body image and the way women’s bodies are exploited in the media, even to the point of provoking eating disorders or recourse to unnecessary surgery.

“Plastic surgery that is not medico-therapeutic can be aggressive toward the feminine identity, showing a refusal of the body in as much as it is a refusal of the ‘season’ that is being lived out,” it said.

“‘Plastic surgery is like a burqa made of flesh.’ One woman gave us this harsh and incisive description,” the document said. “Having been given freedom of choice for all, are we not under a new cultural yoke of a singular feminine model?”

The document also denounced violence inflicted on women: “Selective abortion, infanticide, genital mutilation, crimes of honor, forced marriages, trafficking of women, sexual molestation, rape, which in some parts of the world are inflicted on a massive level and along ethnic lines, are some of the deepest injuries inflicted daily on the soul of the world, on the bodies of women and of girls, who become silent and invisible victims.”

 

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Women hand down the faith, pope says

January 26th, 2015 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Why is it that mostly women are the ones who hand down the faith generation after generation, Pope Francis asked.

“Quite simply because it was a woman who brought us Jesus. It’s the path Jesus chose. He wanted to have a mother” and chose to come to the world through Mary, the pope said Jan. 26 during Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

The pope’s homily focused on the day’s reading from St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (1:1-8) in which the apostle highlights Timothy’s “sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.”

“It’s one thing to hand down the faith and another thing to teach things about the faith. Faith is a gift. Faith cannot be studied,” he said. “Yes, you study the contents of the faith to understand it better, but you never come to faith by studying.”

“Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, it is a present that goes beyond any kind of training,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

Handing on the faith is “the beautiful work of mothers and grandmothers,” or sometimes it comes from an aunt or a domestic helper, the pope said. “We need to reflect on whether women today are aware of this obligation to transmit the faith.”

Once a person receives the faith, he said, they also must recognize the need to safeguard it, protect it from becoming weak and “empty pagan chitchat” or “meaningless worldly small talk.”

If people are not vigilant in living out their faith concretely every day, “the faith weakens, it gets watered down, it ends up being a culture: ‘Yes, well, yes, yes, I am a Christian, yes.’ It’s just a culture,” he said.

Or else it becomes just another collection of facts or information, he said. “‘Yes, I know everything about the faith very well, I know the catechism very well,’” he said, imitating what someone who sees faith only as knowledge might say.

What matters is “how do you live your faith? That is why it is important to revive this gift every day, to make it come alive,” the pope said.

People should not be ashamed of their faith, hiding it, letting it become “wishy-washy” or not “living it with total commitment,” he said. Cowardice hurts the faith because it doesn’t let the faith “grow, go forward, become great.”

Echoing St. Paul, the pope said God did not give believers cowardice or embarrassment, but “a spirit of power, love and prudence” or self-control.

Prudence is “knowing that we cannot do everything we want,” he said; it means seeking ways to share the faith with care.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to have a sincere faith, a faith that does not compromise according to whatever opportunities crop up. A faith that I seek to rekindle every day or at least that I ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle it and that way offer great fruit.”

 

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