The Vatican has strongly supported the role of women in the Church and society and called for policies which create a greater balance between work and family life.
In a letter to Bishops, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has called for women to reclaim their unique role in society and the Church.
He has called for an active collaboration between the sexes, based on the differences between men and women and on their common humanity, having been created in the image of God. The letter notes the “irreplaceable role of women in all aspects of family and social life involving human relationships and caring for others”.
It says that “women should be present in the world of work and in the organisation of society, and that women should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems”.
A just valuing of the work of women within the family is required, the letter says.
“In this way, women who freely desire will be able to devote the totality of their time to the work of the household without being stigmatised by society or penalised financially, while those who wish also to engage in other work may be able to do so with an appropriate work schedule.
“On a more concrete level, if social policies – in the areas of education, work, family, access to services and civic participation – must combat all unjust sexual discrimination, they must also listen to the aspirations and identify the needs of all.
“The defence and promotion of equal dignity and common personal values must be harmonised with attentive recognition of the difference and reciprocity between the sexes where this is relevant to the realisation of one’s humanity, whether male or female.”
The letter affirms that women, through their distinct attributes and traits, play a unique “role of maximum importance in the Church’s life”.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Francis Carroll welcomed the document.
“Its reaffirmation of the unique place of women in the Church and society and its call for an active and positive collaboration between men and women is a welcome contribution to the often antagonistic gender debate,” he said.
Commission for Australian Catholic Women (CACW) Chair, Mrs Geraldine Hawkes said the letter affirmed the prophetic voice of the Australian Bishops in the creation of CACW to promote the participation of women in the Church.
“Women have distinctive values, gifts and skills and the Commission is working closely with all areas of the Church to enable these to be used in ways that are more meaningful for women, for church and for the whole of society,” she said.
Released through the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference