Enhance Women's Role in Church Life

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Angelus, 3 September 1995

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Last Tuesday, as I met the Holy See's Delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women, which starts in Beijing tomorrow, I confirmed the Church's commitment on behalf of women and I asked the communities and institutions of the Church to make concrete gestures, particularly in service to girls and adolescents, especially the poorest.

Today I appeal to the whole Church community to be willing to foster feminine participation in every way in its internal life.

This is certainly not a new commitment, since it is inspired by the example of Christ himself. Although he chose men as his Apostles—a choice which remains normative for their successors—nevertheless, he also involved women in the cause of his kingdom; indeed, he wanted them to be the first witnesses and heralds of his Resurrection. In fact, there are many women who have distinguished themselves in the Church's history by their holiness and hardworking ingenuity. The Church is increasingly aware of the need for enhancing their role. Within the great variety of different and complementary gifts that enrich ecclesial life, many important possibilities are open to them.

The 1987 Synod on the laity expressed precisely this need and asked that "without discrimination women should be participants in the life of the Church and also in consultation and the process of coming to decisions" (Propositio 47; cf. Christifideles laici, n. 51).

2. This is the way to be courageously taken. To a large extent, it is a question of making full use of the ample room for a lay and feminine presence recognized by the Church's law. I am thinking, for example, of theological teaching, the forms of liturgical ministry permitted, including service at the altar, pastoral and administrative councils, Diocesan Synods and Particular Councils, various ecclesial institutions, curias, and ecclesiastical tribunals, many pastoral activities, including the new forms of participation in the care of parishes when there is a shortage of clergy, except for those tasks that belong properly to the priest. Who can imagine the great advantages to pastoral care and the new beauty that the Church's face will assume, when the feminine genius is fully involved in the various areas of her life?

3. May the Blessed Virgin, model of the Church and ideal of femininity, accompany and sustain the efforts of all the people of goodwill who are involved in the Beijing Conference.

May the Mother of the Lord help all humanity to progress in their respect for and promotion of women's true dignity! May she obtain for the Christian community to be ever more faithful to God's plan, following the example of the great women who have embellished its history!

After the recent terrible pictures of massacres and bombings, there is news from Bosnia-Hercegovina of promising talks to find a solution to the conflict. Let us commend to the Lord and to the Blessed Virgin Mary the hope that these efforts will pave the way to a just and lasting peace.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
6 September 1995, p. 1.

L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:

The Cathedral Foundation
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069