Culture Needs Women's Genius

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Message delivered on August 6, 1995

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today I would like to introduce our reflection on woman's role, a reflection accompanying us during the weeks of preparation for the Beijing meeting, with a mention of the Servant of God, Paul VI, who died here in Castel Gandolfo exactly 17 years ago.

Speaking of Maria Montessori in 1970, on the occasion of the centenary of her birth, he remarked that the secret of her success, in a certain sense the very origin of her scientific merits, should be sought in her soul or in that spiritual sensitivity and feminine outlook which enabled her to make the "vital discovery" of the child and led her to conceive of an original form of education on this basis (cf. Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, VIII [1970], 88).

The name of Montessori is clearly representative of all women who have made important contributions to cultural progress.

Unfortunately, in looking objectively at historical reality, we are compelled to notice with regret that, even at this level, women have suffered the effects of systematic marginalization. For too long their opportunities for expression outside the family have been denied or restricted, and the women who, despite being thus penalized, succeeded in asserting themselves have had to be very enterprising.

2. It is time, therefore, to close the gap between the cultural opportunities for men and women. I deeply hope that the forthcoming Beijing Conference will provide a decisive impetus in this direction.

This will benefit not only women but culture itself, since the vast and variegated world of thought and art has a greater need of their "genius" than ever. Let this not seem a gratuitous assertion!

Cultural activity calls into question the human person as a whole, in the twofold complementary sensitivity of man and woman.

This is always important, but especially when the ultimate questions about life are at stake. Who is man? What is his destiny? What is the meaning of life? These decisive questions do not find a satisfactory answer in the laboratories of positive science, but they profoundly challenge man and require, so to speak a "global thinking" that can harmonize with the sphere of mystery. To this end, how could the contribution of the feminine mind be undervalued? Women's increasingly qualified entrance, not only as beneficiaries but also as protagonists, into the world of culture in all its branches—from philosophy to theology, from the social to the natural sciences, from the figurative arts to music—is a very hopeful sign for humanity.

3. Let us turn our gaze trustingly to the Blessed Virgin. Like the other women of her time, she bore the burden of an age when little room was allowed them. Yet the Son of God did not hesitate, in some ways, to learn from her! May Mary obtain for all the women in the world a full awareness of their potential and their role at the service of a culture which is ever more truly human and in conformity with God's plan.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
9-16 August 1995, page 1.

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