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The Church is woman and mother

· The Pope to participants in a seminar on 'Mulieris dignitatem' ·

On Saturday morning, 12 October, in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, Pope Francis received participants in a seminar hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of John Paul II's Mulieris dignitatem.  The following is a translation of his discourse, which was delivered in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

I wish to share with you, even if in brief, the important theme that you are confronting these days: the vocation and the mission of woman in our time. I thank you for your contribution as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's  Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem : a historic document, the first of Papal Magisterium entirely dedicated to the subject of woman. You have delved particularly into the point where it is stated that God entrusts man, the human being, in a special way to woman (cf. n. 30).

What does this “special entrustment”, this special entrustment of the human being to woman mean? It seems evident to me that my Predecessor is referring to motherhood. Many things can change and have changed in the cultural and social revolution, but the fact remains that it is woman who conceives, who bears in her womb and delivers the children of men. And this is not merely a biological fact; it entails a wealth of implication both for woman herself, her way of being, and for her relationships, her relation to human life and to life in general. By calling woman to motherhood, God entrusts the human being to her in an entirely special way.

Here, however, there are two dangers ever present, two opposite extremes that mortify woman and her vocation. The first is to reduce motherhood to a social role, to a task, which even though regarded as noble, in fact, diminishes woman  in her potentiality and does not fully value her in the structure of the community. This may  happen both in civil and ecclesial societies. And, as a reaction to this, there is another danger in the opposite direction, that is promoting a kind of emancipation that abandons the feminine, with all it precious characteristics,   in order to occupy a space that is masculine. And here I would like to stress that  woman has a particular sensitivity to the “things of God”, above all in helping us understand the mercy, tenderness and love that God has for us. I also like to think of  the Church not as an “it” but as a “she”. The Church is woman, she is mother, and this is beautiful. You must go deeper into this.

Mulieris dignitatem is set within this context, and offers a deep and organic reflection with a solid anthropological basis illuminated by Revelation. It is from here that we must begin  again in working to deepen and promote what I have already wished for many times. In the Church as well, it is important to ask oneself: what presence does woman have?  I suffer – to tell you the truth – when I see in the Church or in Church organizations that the role of service – which we all  are have and  should have -  that  a woman's  role of service slides into servitude (servidumbre) .   I don't know if that is how you say it in Italian. Do you understand me? Service. When I see women carrying out acts of  servitude, it is because what a woman should do is not well understood. What does presence does woman have in the Church? Can it be developed? This question is close to my heart and that is why I wanted to meet with you – outside the norm, because a meeting of this kind was not scheduled -  to bless you and your undertaking. Thank you, let us carry it forward together! May Mary Most Holy, the great woman, Mother of Jesus and of all God's children, accompany you. Thank you.

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