Pope Francis: Women called to service, not servitude
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday spoke about “the vocation and the mission” of women on Saturday when addressing participants of a study seminar organized by the Women’s Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on the 25th anniversary of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem. The letter was the first in papal teaching dedicated entirely to the theme of the woman, and the study seminar in particular discussed the point which says that God entrusts man, the human being, to woman in a special way.
“What does this ‘special entrusting’…of the human being to woman signify? It seems evident to me that my predecessor is referring to maternity,” said Pope Francis.
“Many things can change and have changed in our cultural and social evolution, but the fact remains that it is the woman who conceives, carries in her womb and gives birth to the children of men,” the Pope continued. “And this is not simply a biological matter, but carries a wealth of implications for the woman herself, for her way of being, for her relationships, for the way in which we lend respect to human life and to life in general. Calling a woman to maternity, God entrusted the human being to her in an altogether special manner.”
The Pope warned that there are two dangers always present when speaking about this topic, calling them “two extreme opposites that destroy woman and her vocation.”
“The first is to reduce maternity to a social role, to a task, albeit noble, but which in fact sets the woman aside with her potential and does not value her fully in the building of community. This is both in the civil sphere and in the ecclesial sphere,” explained the Holy Father. “And, in reaction to this, there is the other danger in the opposite direction, that of promoting a type of emancipation which, in order to occupy spaces taken away from the masculine, abandons the feminine with the precious traits that characterize it.”
Pope Francis also spoke about the special gifts given to women in the Church.
“ I would like to underline how the woman has a particular sensitivity for the ‘things of God’, above all in helping us to understand the mercy, tenderness and love that God has for us,” he said. “ And it pleases me to think that the Church is not ‘il Chiesa’ [‘the Church’, masculine]: it is ‘la Chiesa’ [feminine]. The Church is a woman! The Church is a mother! And that’s beautiful, eh? We have to think deeply about this.”
The Pope said the document Mulieris Dignitatem arises in this context and offers a profound, organic reflection, with a solid anthropological base, enlightened by Revelation.
“From here, we must restart that work of deepening and of promoting, for which I have already hoped many times. Even in the Church, it is important to ask oneself: what presence does the woman have?” he said.
“I suffer – speaking truthfully! – when I see in the Church or in some ecclesial organizations that the role of service that we all have, and that we must have – but that the role of service of the woman slips into a role of “servidumbre” [Spanish: servitude]. . . But when I see women that do things out of “servitude” and not out of service,” said Pope Francis. “And that it is not understood well what a woman ought to do. Can she be valued more? It is a reality that is close to my heart and for this I wanted to meet … and bless you and your commitment. Thank you, let us move this forward together! May most holy Mary – a great woman, eh? – the Mother of Jesus and of all God’s children, accompany us. Thank you!”