Equal Opportunity Still Urgently Needed

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Message delivered 20 August 1995

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Doubtless one of the great social changes of our time is the increasing role played by women, also in an executive capacity, in labor and the economy. This process is gradually changing the face of society, and it is legitimate to hope that it will gradually succeed in changing that of the economy itself, giving it a new human inspiration and removing it from the recurring temptation of dull efficiency marked only by the laws of profit. How can we fail to see that, in order to deal satisfactorily with the many problems emerging today, special recourse to the feminine genius is essential? Among other things, I am thinking of the problems of education, leisure time, the quality of life, migration, social services, the elderly, drugs, health care, ecology. "In all these areas a greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable", and "it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favors the processes of humanization which mark the "civilization of love" (Letter to Women, n. 4).

2. Nevertheless, it is clear that increasing the role of women in the frequently harsh and demanding structures of economic activity must take into account their temperament and particular needs. Above all it is necessary to respect the right and duty of woman as mother to carry out her specific tasks in the family, without being forced by need to take on an additional job. What would society truly gain—even at the economic level—if a short-sighted labor policy were to prejudice the family's endurance and functions?

The safeguarding of this basic good however cannot be an alibi with regard to the principle of equal opportunity for men and women also in work outside the family. Flexible and balanced solutions should be found which can harmonize the different needs. In fact—as I wrote in my recent Letter to Women—"Much remains to be done to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers. As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State" (n. 4).

3. Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust this great challenge of our era to the Blessed Virgin's intercession! Her home in Nazareth was a place of work. Mary, like any good housewife, was busy with domestic tasks while Joseph, with Jesus beside him, worked as a carpenter. May working women look to the hard-working and holy family of Nazareth, and may society be able to find suitable ways to increase their role to the full.

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

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