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​Women’s voices

· Documents ·

We are publishing here substantial excerpts from the meeting that was held last 1 April in the editorial offices of L’Osservatore Romano, on the subjects addressed in the book La voce delle donne. Pluralità e differenza nel cuore della Chiesa [The voices of women. Plurality and differences at the heart of the Church], by Sabina Caligiani (Milan, Edizioni Paoline, 2019, 224 pages, 17 euros). The essay gathers together the voices of 17 women who work in the ecclesial, historical and philosophical fields. Angela Ales Bello, Cettina Militello, Serena Noceti, Marinella Perroni, Cristina Simonelli, Adriana Valerio, Francesca Brezzi and Yvonne Dohna Schlobitten are only some of the women biblicists, historians, philosophers and artists who, through the pages of this book, open a window on female thought and on the contribution it has offered to thinking and to the Church from the Vatican Council to this day. As well as many of the women authors, various other women and scholars participated in order to discuss, on the basis of the book’s themes, how to interact with the daily newspaper of the Holy See, open to free confrontation between the “plural and different” views on the world and on the role of women in the Church.

In the illustrations, details of paintings by Beato Angelico

Sabina Caligiani – Why Women’s voices? For some time I had been aware of the (intellectual, interior) need to examine in depth a series of subjects related to the female question, giving priority to the instruments of Christian anthropology. I was in the middle of gathering and studying material on gender difference when I came across the text of Beate Beckmann Zöller, a German woman philosopher and theologian. “Do women ‘move’ popes?” the author wonders. Have they been able, despite the rigid hierarchies of the Church in history, to influence a world dominated by men? The answer is “yes”, and serves as the title of her book Die Frauen bewegen die Päpste [Women move popes].They were capable of doing so. Six paradigmatic portraits of women, whose lives spanned many centuries, from the Middle Ages to our day, from Hildegard of Bingen to Edith Stein, “prophetesses” who, with their magisterium of thought and action exercised in differentperiods and in different ways, laid the foundations of today’s debate on gender differences – and not only theological ones – and of the construction of a theology “in the feminine”. The inspiration of a book, as well as from the concrete experience of life, can also be born, indeed is often born, from other books. These books themselves are distilled and concentrated life experiences. Women’s Voices was born in this way. I asked myself: why not go and seek – in a sort of vital and intellectual journey which could combine theory and a concrete personal approach – the ideal modern continuation of that route marked out by Beate Beckmann Zöller? It fascinated me to hypothesize that the strong thread of history could establish a genealogy and continuity between those extraordinary women of the past and the many today who are working on the same subjects, faced with the challenge of the changes posed by modernity. And it so fascinated me that I was induced to make a sort of journey, a real journey consisting of interviews, the search for women religious and lay women who would bring back to life today the heritage of the past and develop it. I selected some of them, those who have significant histories and experiences, each one different from the others, encountering them in their workplaces and in particular in the pontifical universities where, above all, after the new wind of the Second Vatican Council had swept in they had the possibility of teaching and of undertaking research. I interviewed them with a journalistic rather than a theoretical and doctrinal approach. Each one of these women revealed unimagined horizons to me, of extraordinary interest. I preferred Women’s Voices to speak in their voices. Theology had a live dialogue with philosophy, history, sociology, bioethics, art and communication. The empathy which united us gave us the possibility to build interviews together, from which, in the end, came not only a theoretical elaboration but also theory distilled in dialogue and in conversation, in biography and in life. In writing this work, putting the interviews in their order of sequence, I was struck by the increase in their meaning, the emergence of important new possibilities generated by our meetings, by the fact that the voices, although individually characterized, were involuntarily an echo and a recall from one chapter to the other, establishing common terrains and suggesting approaches by new paths. This is the virtue of exchange, the fertility that is born from the research and sharing of common ways and objectives.

Adriana Valerio — I taught the history of Christianity and of the Church up to the epoch of Frederick ii of Naples, I am co-foundress of the Coordinamento delle Theologhe Italiane [coordination of Italian women theologians] and I have been President of The European Society of Women in Theological Research. I am interested mainly in history and in the history of women’s exegesis, having worked for over ten years on the international and inter-religious project “The Bible and Women”. My question is on the organizational aspects, that is, on how it is possible in a newspaper like L’Osservatore Romano to make the emerging themes of the daily interact with our specific skills in the theological disciplines (exegesis, history, dogmatics, ecclesiology, liturgy, anthropology, pastoral ministry, etc...). Perhaps it would be possible to create an organizational structure with people responsible for the individual sectors, in such a way as to set up a work team to make known all the aspects of contemporary research by women theologians who have contributed so many innovations regarding the different ways of considering women and their roles in the Church.

Stella Morra – I teach fundamental theology at the Gregorian University. I believe that one of the eternal problems of all newspapers and hence also of L’Osservatore Romano is that of the relationship between news and reflection. There is news because this is a newspaper’s concern and then there is a possible reflection on this news which may be on the cultural page. I think, for example, that this is precisely one of the questions as regards both the subject of women and their participation, in the process of researching news and in the process of a deeper cultural examination. For example, I don’t think that women should write in L’Osservatore Romano only on matters or subjects concerning women. If care is taken, for example, always to listen to both male and female voices for every news item – regardless of what is being discussed – this might be a first step, which does not exclude the possibility that there might then be certain specific points reflecting on women where they could have a more visible input. But this level of ordinariness to my mind could already be a very concrete small criterion.

The second question: there are themes of women’s experiences which could instead be turned in the opposite direction: not to remain only an opportunity to promote them but rather a resource for everyone. One of these, in my opinion, is the question of the way these experiences are passed down through the generations. Here too I suggest a small criterion, for example, on matters that concern women: always ask for a differentiated contribution, on the basis of age, from both a young woman and an older woman who has skills and greater experience. For example, on women’s topics this passing down through the generations is an important question which in this sense is a resource for everyone. Being 30 today is different from being 30 years old 30 years ago, it is radically different in both good and bad ways.

Marinella Perroni – I am a biblicist and I founded the Coordinamento delle teologhe italiane [coordination of Italian women theologians]. First of all I wanted to ask for a little more elaboration of the phrase used by the Director, who said that one of the aims of L’Osservatore Romano is “to tell stories”, since “story-telling” can mean everything or nothing. It’s one thing to tell stories as a literary style, but quite another to say that the newspaper’s structure is to tell stories. Then I wonder whether the aim of this meeting of ours is to begin to establish a database of female resources. This would be a first step but would certainly not be enough. It is equally necessary, in fact, to equip ourselves with people who help us to understand that certain subjects which may seem innocuous, indeed, which may seem to promote human beings, must today be considered rather more complex and problematic. I see, for example, that L’Osservatore Romano posted as its word of the year the word “brotherhood”. That’s splendid, the Pope has talked about it, the entire history of the Christian faith is a history of brotherhood, lived or denied. But: how aware are we of the fact that sisterhood exists and of what sisterhood has brought to women? I mean to say that the equality of resources between men and women is certainly necessary, but an effort must also be made to understand that on some subjects a women’s culture, a women’s way of thinking and a women’s tradition also exist. And one thing is certain: this culture, this way of thinking and this tradition are having a hard time becoming known and recognized as such, especially in the Church. We have to realize that precisely at the level of the formulation of subjects we cannot leave aside a tradition that has been built up over these past two centuries in order try to rethink things, starting from a women’s perspective too. This is a fact which has quite considerable importance and yet is almost unheard of in general-interest Italian journalism.

Giorgia Salatiello — I am an ordinary teacher at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Pontifical Gregorian University and a guest teacher at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum. In fact, on a small scale, this openness to seeing things from the feminine point of view has already occurred. For my own small article precisely on sisterhood came out in one of L’Osservatore Romano’s recent issues. I accepted with pleasure the newspaper’s initiative to create as inclusive a team of people as possible. To me this seems an important aspect: the fact that women should not only write about women, as if they were corralled in a sort of Indian reserve.

Francesca Brezzi – I would like here to thank Sabina Caligiani for her “persecution” on our behalf which has given place to this birth that makes us all happy. I am a philosopher by profession but I would like to mention my great debt to the women theologians, in particular Marinella Perroni and also to the historians, such as Adriana Valerio, who have truly changed my way of seeing the studies. Together with Angela Ales Bello I took the study course on “traditional” philosophies. Given our age, the women philosophers were not studied when we were young but later they burst into my life, which changed from that moment. This book therefore offers several indications for the future. In some way, without us knowing who the other participants would be at the meeting held today, it pleases me to borrow an expression from a woman theologian whom I deeply appreciate (Antonietta Potente, who likes to use this term) and say that “a multi-coloured canvas” resulted from it. I believe that we should start from here, and therefore open ourselves to diversity and to the possibility of addressing a great many subjects. Moreover I come from the field of traditional philosophy, and I am still concerned with many other questions, I do not study only women’s problems. I am also concerned with human rights and with contemporary ethics, and a few days ago I gave a lecture on history and memory. We cannot talk about a large number of topics, but I believe at the time in which we are speaking, that we have been touched, some more, some less, by the “feminine” philosophy (we had a deep discussion with Marinella Perroni on what term to use in her wonderful book Non contristate lo Spirito published in 2007 when it was impossible to use the term “feminist theology”) and shall bring to bear our intuition as women, Catholics and Christians, who have questioned themselves as women on certain subjects, thus contributing another way of thinking, a different solution.

Sr Beatrice Salvioni – I am a Pauline Sister. I feel somewhat intimidated because I am not a philosopher, I am not a theologian but simply a sister who accepted a vocational proposal from God. I accepted a vocation which, at least at the time, was still rather difficult to “swallow”: that a congregation, a religious family, in this case the Pauline Family, should work at the service of the Gospel with the tools of communication and information and with the criteria of a healthy business, this is something which we ourselves have still not succeeded in digesting, only think of what it must have been like 50 years ago! I wanted to take up the discourse which was also made by Marinella Perroni. Following another book, the one we published on the Polis which was, precisely, a tribute to her research and her thinking, Marinella expressed herself in these words which I am not sure of translating correctly but which I translate as I understood them: when we promote women’s thinking, she said, we are not promoting women but creating an entire culture. A culture which is only male, with all respect too for certain men who highly esteem and respect women, is a crippled society hence it is not a culture. For this reason I believe that talking about everything, women and men, with their own abilities, must become the norm, precisely in order to foster the circulation of culture, rather than the advancement of women.

Sr Marcella Farina — I teach theology at the Faculty of the Sciences of Education at the Auxilium. I’ve been asking myself for some time, already since the Great Jubilee, about what to pass on to the new generation. We are talking about the “Generation Z”, which is completely ignorant of the paths we take, of all our problems and also of our scientific breakthroughs. How can we reach this generation which must later, perhaps, also take its place in university culture, because they may already have reached university level as students? There is a very widespread illiteracy among these young people. I also wonder how L’Osservatore Romano can reach this generation. What kind of strategy will it use? A few days ago we had a meeting on risk, which is not only a game. It is practically only young people who play, seeking risk as an end in itself. Therefore these problems too, which are very present in the world of youth, could be faced by us women, because we perceive the difficulty and also the risks of these young people, of their loneliness, of their lack of a family and of being listened to. These young people may not be interested in the problem of being women or of being men because they live what they think of living, perhaps even hiding their resources and talents. The question is how to reach them, even finding some strategy involving them, making them talk, asking them what drives them to take risks, what urges them to move towards these dependences (on alcohol but that is not all), towards this use of the mass media, so massive that it then makes people lose touch with reality. I think that the sisters expert in communications could give us some help. For me these are great problems, for being at a Faculty of the Sciences of Education I really see that the new generations are “different”, we call them the “Z generation” because the millennials are now already a generation of the past. For me this is a very important objective.

Yvonne Dohna Schlobitten — I’m German and the only non-Italian in this group. I’m an associate lecturer at the Pontifical Gregorian University. I give courses in Aesthetics and Spirituality in Contemporary Art. My formation is somewhat atypical. In fact I initially studied jurisprudence, completing the whole of a jurist’s course, but I then continued in the study of philosophy to obtain at last a doctorate in history of art. It was an itinerary which has now, and this is interesting, led me to study theology. At the moment I am completing a doctorate in Fribourg with research into art, aesthetics, religion and theology. I am keen to say that in the end I arrived at theology precisely in order to deepen what I understood in art, in aesthetics and in spirituality. I’m a founder member of an international group of women (and now also men), to help to define “what is intrinsic in female theology”. For four years we have been working together and have also organized conferences. In my opinion if we want the voices of women to have a meaning for the world and especially for the world of the Church, we should really find a way to achieve that inter-, multi- and cross-disciplinary approach which the Constitution Veritatis gaudium also proposes. Today there is a tendency not to take art and artistic creation seriously; something which to my mind is wrong because they are pure theology. The theologian Romano Guardini understood this aspect of art and arrived at theology without “using” art. A trans-disciplinary system is necessary if we are to understand above all the method. What is the method of philosophy? What is the method of theology? These are important questions. I feel that after four years of work in that group we have begun to develop female criteria (awareness, listening and looking), methods and concepts in dialogue, in organization, in leadership and in education. Of course we teach, in an indirect way we educate priests and students. Nonetheless I think that it is not yet very obvious that our, as I call it, “intellectual feeling” as women is truly a method, a scientific way of proceeding which could be ascertained and defined and thus become part of the teaching at the different universities. This is something close to my heart. It is hard to define a “female criterion” or “female spiritual feelings”. However in my opinion if we meet regularly, knowing one another’s ways of thinking, it will be possible to succeed in defining our route better.

Cecilia Costa – I am a sociologist and I teach the sociology of cultural processes and of education. I live a sort of border situation because I am both a lecturer at RomaTre, a state university, and for many years have taught at the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose at the Pontifical Lateran University. Taking academic “risks”, I was deeply involved in the link between sociology and theology, focusing on an approach not in words but in facts. In my own small way, I somehow managed to slip in a certain synergy between different disciplines. Yvonne Dohna Schlobitten spoke of the possibility of introducing female scientific criteria into the intellectual debate. In the meantime I would say that there is a certain female “style” in transferring knowledge: in fact, without betraying scientific strictness a woman scholar can write with “passion”, with “generosity”, and with the will to put herself at the “service” of her readers. Further, while remaining anchored to the epistemology and the methodology of her own discipline, a woman academic can find unprecedented connections and can semantically broaden traditional concepts to build disciplinary bridges. With regard to the male mentality, women, perhaps – and I emphasize perhaps – understand better the usefulness of combining speculative areas which are apparently distant and far from one another but which, on the contrary, are subtly more closely linked than they seem. The intellectual world of women could strengthen the exchange between the plurality of knowledge, with the aim of giving more room to the multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches, “situating and stimulating all disciplines”, as Pope Francis urged us in Veritatis gaudium. To respond, instead, to the educational questions raised by Sr Marcella Farina, since I have in these recent years been concerned with the situation of youth in a sociological key and since I was involved as an expert in the wonderful experience of the Synod on Young People, I realize that many of the knotty problems of the emerging generation need to be faced with a specifically “feminine” sensitivity, as, for example, among other things: the incapacity of many of them to truly be protagonists of their lives, to have a profound sense of freedom and to be fascinated by risk. This search for risk is at times born from fear, from an emptiness, and some young people chase after it in the most varied situations: in alcohol abuse, in drugs, in discotheques, in driving too fast and in stupefaction.

Manuela Terribile – Until a few months ago I taught at a school and this year I am teaching theology at a Catholic university. I believe that there are two subjects in which women might offer a reflection that could also intersect with the path of L’Osservatore Romano. The first, which I presume is dear to Pope Francis but I believe also touches the flesh of us all, is clericalism, something on which there is much that can be said, and also much disagreement, according to who is speaking. We must bear in mind that women are not exempt from this “factory defect” by virtue solely of being women. In any case, this theme should be developed: “clericalism” is one of the many words which can mean nothing or can even play against Pope Francis. This is something which to me at this moment in history (mine, that of the Church and of others) would be most regrettable.

The other, very difficult, subject is the one which I call the “interruption of tradition”. Ninety-five per cent, perhaps more, of the words which the Traditio fidei uses have no meaning for the youngest people,just as for previous generations, those who knew them and are now beginning to hear them, they are somewhat faded. They are words – at least if one does not have a community which incarnates them – that seem, to say it with Gozzano, “little things in very bad taste”. I believe that these two subjects deserve a women’s voice. There is then something that women can express and it is a serious value, what I might call a “procedural” value: as I look at the people present here the thought occurs to me that we belong to the Church in various ways. And this is not unimportant. Religious life has a meaning which is all its own and without religious life the Church would be somewhat different, she would have another face. There are, here and in the world, women who teach and women who don’t teach, women who come from Italy or from elsewhere. I believe that there is a variety, not only of stories, but of very strong skills which become fuel for us. This plurality of women can be used, at least to weave a fabric. As for clericalism, each one of us here has experienced it, or otherwise we would not be here. None of us, at least, such is my hope, will have the same thoughts on the subject. This is not a problem but a resource.

Angela Ales Bello – I have taught at the Lateran University. One important thing we have done is to promote women philosophers, and in particular women phenomenologists: Edith Stein, all of whose works we have translated and which we are continuing to revise, starting with the new German edition, Hedwig Conrad-Martius and Gerda Walther. These are three very important women philosophers whom we have made known in Italy and at an international level too; the fruits of this work are today ripening in a very significant manner, which is why we intend to continue on this path. All the things you have said are of course excellent. I believe that the project we should cultivate is that of being united in the common vision of thinking and acting together.

Francesca Brezzi – I am taking the floor again because I want to answer Yvonne’s precise question on the method, a good question. I believe that the method was continued precisely by two aspects of female thinking (I then ask if we are all in agreement on this because it could be a starting point): women’s studies in all their variations which we have seen well represented here, have two characteristics in my view, and they are – in simplified terms – the critical dimension and the creative dimension. These studies represent a critical project, in the sense that they must absolutely reinterpret the whole of tradition, putting into practice the hermeneutics of suspicion of which these women theologians speak. A critical project means that there is a great task to be faced, as great a task as the one that women historians are facing. And then there is a creative project, that is, to find new words, new symbolisms, words, as Angela Ales Bello is right in saying, which become practice. It seems very simple yet in fact it isn’t, but perhaps it can be an element which brings us together in all the various dimensions of our studies. For we have all worked at this task of the critical revision of a past in which we were not present, in which I am speaking of us as women, as scholars, as theologians and as philosophers. I too attended the Theology Faculty in the 1970s in Milan. I was moreover pregnant, so my acceptance was something exceptional, although they told me “you will not succeed in being present the required number of times” (because my daughter was to be born in May). The atmosphere of reinterpretation is necessary, I think, precisely because it is not true that tradition is bad or is silent before women, tradition speaks, it is alive; it is a matter of bringing out its capacity for innovation. I customarily use the comparison with the Sistine Chapel, the restoration of the Sistine Chapel which gave rise to so many discordant opinions. The shadows that darkened the original colours had to be removed and here too it is a matter of removing shadows that darken. How often have we discussed Christian anthropology with Angela Ales Bello, in Genesis anthropology is clearly dual, we cannot hide this, then what was not considered or discussed is another question. Thus we need a critical project, the hermeneutics of suspicion, but together with this we need a creative project, new words, new symbolisms, because it is true that words are old and worn, so we must find new and original ones.

Simona Segoloni — Teaching systematic theology in an ecclesial faculty (in fact I teach Systematic Theology at the Theological Institute of Assisi, aggregated to the Pontifical Lateran University) I have before me many students – about two thirds – who are candidates to the ordained ministry and I can feel tangibly that these boys are continuously tempted by the idea of feeling themselves superior to those who are not ordained and thus by definition to all women, since it is the Catholic Church’s practice not to ordain baptized people of the female sex. Sometimes it is the very way in which the ordained ministry is proposed to them that urges them to feel themselves “by vocation” to be superior to others, in spite of the fact that it is repeated to them that being placed above is a service: in fact this message is contradictory because, by definition, no servant is placed above. Such ambiguity produces effects because clericalism in the Church is spreading, as well as and closely connected with it, sexism: the idea, that is, that the sexes are not equal, but hierarchically ordained (at the top, obviously, are men). I think that there are basically two strategies for facing this situation.

The first is scientific strictness. Scientific strictness is fundamental because all too often, even in qualified contexts, women are approved or sought after for their “style”, too frequently defined as welcoming or maternal. When this happens we have already lost because these assertions indicate that the validity of our thinking is not recognized to the extent of being able to recognize it as true and to share it; rather we are placated, like something decorative which may be praised without entering into cultural elaborations and into practice (like an attractive cover illustration).

The second strategy consists of creating spaces shared with men. Indeed women should not only be considered as fully human and fully protagonists of ecclesial life, but a new relationship must be developed with men, who will no longer be able to relate to us as if we were not emancipated. This new relationship entails a rethinking by men too and must be capable of opening a new era in the human story in which neither of the sexes dominates the other. In order to do all this it is essential to create shared spaces in which places and moments can be lived and in which, even sporadically, a woman is in a hierarchically superior position or at least on an equal footing with her male colleagues; places and times in which reciprocal esteem, collaboration and friendly relations throw into crisis the sexist mentality which very strongly persists in the Church and makes us all think that basically women are useful but not indispensable.

Stella Morra – An important question, that of the young: whether L’Osservatore Romano can contribute to changing the atmosphere in their regard: this would be a splendid challenge. Concerning interchange, that is, the action with regard to certain mentalities like that of which Simona Segoloni spoke very well, a daily like L’Osservatore Romano can have a certain role. At this point I do not care whether it is a man or a woman who is writing, but reflecting on men, reflecting on this structural identification is very important. One of the experiences which has marked me in teaching was a student following my seminar, who was very argumentative in the first three lessons, and one word in two was “what can a woman teach me?”. Not long ago he became a bishop and he wrote to me telling me that I ought to know that there was a bishop going about the world who thought every time that a woman spoke to him, “listen carefully because she might be able to teach you as much as Morra taught you”. I consider this my own personal victory. However it is not enough. In the sense that each one of us can claim at least one small personal victory, but the question is that there should no longer be anyone who thinks “what can a woman teach me?”. I believe that the battle against clericalism is something that does everyone good, it does good to men and to women, even to women tempted by clericalism, but not a generic battle, not merely in words. Manuela Terribile is right about this. We must set to work on transmitting a culture of women which is something that in part exists, much has already been thought, said and written but, at the same time, in part it is yet to be thought about, or at least to be expressed with regard to passing it on to the younger generations. This too is attention to young people and the problem is not whether the young read L’Osservatore Romano but that those who hold responsibility, who may be a priest or a bishop and who read L’Osservatore Romano, should treat young men and women in a different way, passing on to them a culture of women, a culture which women have elaborated and continue to elaborate.

Sr Elena Bosetti – I am a sister of the Pauline Family, the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd known as the Pastorelle Sisters, precisely because of a discourse of reciprocity with the pastors of the Church. Our founders were cunning. If Blessed Giacomo Alberione had called us “pastore” [women pastors] we would probably not have obtained approval, the word had a Protestant tang…. But “Pastorelle” (little shepherdesses) went down well and was promoted unanimously. Fr Alberione’s reasoning, inspired by Genesis, was nevertheless daring: if it is not good that the man should be alone, then it is not good that the priest should be alone.

Summoned by Cardinal Martini, I began to teach at the Gregorian in the year when he was Rector. I pointed out to him that I had not yet acquired a doctorate in theology but he, seeing what I was doing for my sisters to bring them to have the same theological culture as priests (so that they were not treated as mere agents of their orders), invited me to teach at the Gregorian, saying that exceptions could also be made. I have taught for 30 years at the Gregorian but I never wanted a full time post because I felt strongly my vocation to communicate the Word of God directly to the people. And I realized one thing, that what Martini said, namely that at the universities it is not one’s sex that counts but one’s skills, but that this is not the case at seminaries. Today there are now many women who teach at the pontifical universities, but who is present in the seminaries where our future priests are trained? Women are not seen in seminaries. I experienced directly what Simona Segoloni said and I have talked about it. For example at the convention in Aquileia, where more than 15 bishops were present: I pointed out that before speaking to women about the priesthood, it is appropriate to ask ourselves who trains the seminarians, the future priests. If they had been at home in the family they would have been in touch with their father, their mother, their brother, their sister…. In a seminary at this point they do not even see the cook. We are speaking of clericalism, but if clerics still live segregated lives we cannot be surprised at what happens. At one time my sisters were able to study at seminaries, but later they had to withdraw and go to the theological faculties; I find this detestable. Let us think about spiritual guidance. I have had an opportunity to preach the spiritual exercises to priests and seminarians of various dioceses, who, during their conversations expressed to me their desire that there might be a woman to refer to, a spiritual mother. I conveyed this to their bishops, in the hope that something would change. Let us not forget that before she was 30 years old St Catherine was already a spiritual guide of clerics and bishops.... Let us not forget that a newspaper like L’Osservatore Romano may not be able to enter some circles but if certain things were written in it this would be no bad thing, given that there are bishops and cardinals among its readers.

With regard to method, among women theologians of the first and second generations and the women theologians of the new generation it would be interesting to compare the different approaches, because the youngest ones intentionally skip certain things. I care very much about the level of practices and it seems to me that if an ecclesiology of communion is hard, the pastoral care of communion is harder still. We really haven’t got there yet. I try to be deeply committed on this front because new atheists are increasing and 40-year-old women are fleeing the Church. I am fully in agreement – and I conclude that here it is not only a matter of making room for women, but of developing a culture of reciprocity, for then a new way of being Church would also be built.

Manuela Terribile – This year I am having a wonderful adventure, teaching dogmatics at LUMSA, a university where there is no theology faculty. Theology at the Catholic universities is a parallel teaching which serves to embody the adjective “Catholic”; but then there is another point of view, another horizon. This point of view is that of a number, rather high, of young women and men who have the mindset of today’s 20-year-olds. They sometimes behave as though they themselves kept the balance sheets of their own lives, they understand nothing about theological matters but above all they have no intention of understanding them. This makes my work very entertaining. We continue to think, rightly feeling sorrow, of a Church where the greatest problem seems to be the priests, and this, alas, is true. But the question should also be broadened: if we continue to bring up generations of young people who have a culture expressed in several paradigms and who, if ever they have a faith, have no words to name their ways, they will not remain; in the society in which we live there is no need to remain in the Church. Being in the Church brings no advantages, except, perhaps, for those who become completely clerical.

Cristina Mandosi – When I began my activity as a journalist I devoted myself to the cultural pages and above all to religious information and I thus obtained first a diploma in religious sciences and then a licence in communications at the Pontifical Salesian University. I also carried out various activities in the area of communications and in particular in the Office for Social Communications of the Diocese of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino. After that I became passionate about the world of art and thus enrolled at the Pontifical Gregorian University where today I am a graduate student in research into the cultural patrimony of the Church. When I received the invitation to take part in this encounter, organized by L’Osservatore Romano, I very willingly accepted because I would like room to be found in this newspaper for an approach to art, understood as a place in life and not as a patrimony worthy of interest merely for its historical and artistic value, but rather as a multi-cultural place for meeting, experience and openness towards others.

Art does not succeed in developing in closed contexts because it is nourished by suggestions, interpolations and references; the richer the elements offered to the artist, the better he or she succeeds in expressing in the best possible way art’s propheticism too. For a newspaper this means eliciting from an artwork the humanity, events and stories, as well as the deepest dimension of the human being. For us who are concerned with art, the subject is already interdisciplinary, especially Christian art which expresses theology, philosophy, anthropology, history, human sciences, etc…. But above all there is life. Sometimes in observing an event it is possible to “see” a picture. I once happened to notice a homeless man, dirty and ill, who was sitting on the ground among the orange-coloured peel of citrus fruits tipped out of a dustbin.There was a world there, that man at that moment was no longer an outcast but the active protagonist of an artistic moment, between me and him a silent communication of beauty was established, amidst the ugliness and detritus that surrounded him his eyes were shining and I perceived there the divine mystery; while that man was reacquiring his full dignity, all those who passed by him indifferent were losing it. Thus I understood artists who, in their works, make room for the marginalized: art restores to them what the world has taken from them and that is their humanity. Art is this. And teaching Christian art means lifting from the work the veil of appearances in order to plunge into the divine mystery.

Bishops and the clergy in general could take art into consideration as a valid element for pastoral ministry, and not concentrate only on the process of displaying it in museums. There are many young artists too who would like to collaborate with the Church and many of the faithful who would like help in bringing Christian works of art to fruition. To sum up, a true pastoral care of art is lacking and for this reason I would like disciplines such as “the pastoral care of art” or “the communication of Christian art” to be established in seminaries and in Catholic universities. I hope that this newspaper can bring these subjects to its readers.

Caterina Ruggiu – I am grateful for this moment of profound sharing of our experiences. And I think that this unites us more than anything else. I am a co-author of the book, even though I do not have your qualifications, I am not a woman theologian. I have taught history and philosophy in Rome, Florence and Milan, and so I was asked to work in the editorial offices of the periodical Città Nuova. I am currently working at the Chiara Lubich Centre of the Focolare Movement. Therefore at the outset I was somewhat perplexed about accepting, but when Sabina Caligiani asked me to talk about “Chiara and women” I did so gladly for various reasons. On his visit to the Movement’s citadel at Loppiano in May 2018, Pope Francis told us that the movement was “but at the beginning”, strongly emphasizing the importance of building a culture of unity and not of uniformity. Chiara – in my opinion – was a woman profoundly anchored to the tradition of the Church, in line with the great female figures who from century to century had enriched her and at the same time was thoroughly immersed in the most deeply-felt needs of our time which in her leadership of the Movement she was able to discern and interpret. An example: the President of the Focolari will always be a woman, assisted by a man Co-President and by a Council, in its turn formed of equal numbers of men and women. Young people are “active subjects” and are called to participate not only in things that directly concern them – such as the Youth Days or the Synod on Young People in which they take part, making their own contribution – but also in matters which concern the whole Movement. Chiara was defined as a “woman of dialogue” which she wanted and pursued throughout her life, starting from dialogue in the Church, and we know how difficult and at the same time necessary dialogue is. It seems to me that this woman of our time, Chiara Lubich, has much to say to the Church today and in the future.

Paola Lazzarini – I don’t really know why I am here since I’m not a lecturer, I’m a proudly extra-academic sociologist, in the sense that I do research with a multi-disciplinary association but not at a university. I obtained a doctorate in the sociology of religion. So I believe I am here because a year and a half ago, through an itinerary born from social media I gave life to an experience called “Women for the Church”, which, moving from social media, has also found a little bit of life outside them in the sense that groups have come into being and we are in six towns, together with other women who are asking to join other groups elsewhere; we are thus in the process of organizing ourselves. Last month we set up an association, we really are new born. So here I feel like conveying the experience not of women theologians but of women, like me, who belong to associations. I come from the experience of Christian Associations of Italian Workers [ACLI], the experience of the women in the parishes who serve as catechists. In thinking a little about this meeting a song sprang to my mind, Panic by The Smiths which says “Burn down the disco / Hang the blessed DJ / Because the music they constantly play / It says nothing to me about my life”. So I think this must be the centre and heart of the matter, in other words we must play a music which says something about peoples’ lives. And, in particular, I am thinking of the women readers. What do I mean by “says something about peoples’ lives”? I remember a brief, very beautiful essay by Tina Beattie, a theologian who is a friend of many of you and I am happy to say that she is also a friend of mine. Tina says that when she began to study theology after having had her children, the first time that they spoke to her about epistemology she understood it as episiotomy. For an episiotomy is an experience she had felt in the flesh and she knew what it was, while she had no idea what epistemology was. To me this seems important, to start out, notwithstanding all that has already been said about the multi-disciplinary approach, about strictness, etc.... with this too, namely going into some of the vital nerve centres in the lives of people in general and of women. For example, through passion and through experience I have been deeply concerned with breast-feeding, in both a sociological sense and in my past, and it is one of those turning points in a woman’s life which has much to say about her way of being in the world, of relating, of living contemplation in action and spirituality. So being in these nerve centres here also seems to me to be important. I don’t have gender studies behind me, I arrived at this type of commitment above all because of the suffering with which women believers were being represented, something that makes me extremely uncomfortable. I then found other women who were experiencing this same distress and we realized that in fact this distress about representation had a far deeper story to tell, which is what we heard here this morning, that is, of a female presence in the Church which is a suffering presence, it not only constructs and does things but it also suffers. All this enabled me to reinterpret some of my own experiences in life. How do women live their own paths of vocational orientation (which are totally different from the way men live theirs)? I am interested in these intersections.

Emilia Palladino – I teach in the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Gregorian and I have a special formation: my first study qualification is a degree in physics with a specialization in cosmology and for several years I did scientific research between the Observatory of Monte Mario and the Laboratory for Experimental Cosmology of the University of La Sapienza, Rome. I then abandoned these studies in order to take the academic path in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Gregorian, where I gained a licence and a doctorate in the social teaching of the Church and I continued my career in university teaching there. For some years now teaching on the family, such as, for example, the sociology of the family, has been dropped from the curriculum, even though my course on women still features in it; but, precisely because there is not even a minimal formation on the subject of relations between the sexes, it is often an effort and perhaps not very effective in terms of academic training.

However the most serious question raised by this formulation is that the question of peoples’ real lives is addressed solely by moral theology and there is no teaching of other disciplines which could be in dialogue with the theological content in these subjects. So if L’Osservatore Romano succeeds in detaching the interpretation of ordinary life from an exclusively moral formulation (which could risk being judgemental) I believe that this might be of great use to the entire ecclesial community.

The second point concerns languages. Indeed a way of speaking to everyone through convincing communicative strategies should be found. For example, the importance of the Internet which reaches more people than printed paper should not be underestimated.

Lastly, with respect to the subject of stereotypes of which Sr Elena spoke, I think that knowledge of them is a key to the interpretation of reality in sociological terms too: stereotypes are everywhere, and not only as regards men and women. It would be a really important achievement if we were to succeed in laying bare the lie on which stereotypes and prejudices often rest, and we could offer another key to the interpretation of the relationship between nature and culture, today largely wrongly cited.

Sr Nicla Spezzati – I am a religious of the Congregation of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. I taught Sociology of Cultural Processes at the Università degli Studi Aldo Moro in Bari and I teach at the Claretianum – Istituto di Teologia della Vita Consacrata (itvc), Pontifical Lateran University, and at the Studium of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (civcsva), always giving priority to research and to the passion for the educational in all its expressions. For 12 years I served the Apostolic See at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, seven of which as the dicastery’s Undersecretary. It seems to me fundamental in order to believe in a possible utopia that we should bring our thoughts to converge on the identity of the humanum. We need to proceed on paths which in our own identities, male and female, converse and converge in growth. We need to begin and to continue to carry through processes which do not stake a claim, do not separate but rather combine thought and new practices. Our focus should be directed to the human mystery, both male and female, from which every thesis on life is born in accordance with the original modus. To me it seems indispensable that in welcoming, highlighting and doing justice to the quaestiones of women we should go further. We need to continue to kindle good sense which confirms in practice not the solitary possibility of the female, but the irrefutable given of the humanum, male and female, that becomes generative at every level. This is also true for the Church. Some of the interventions which preceded mine spoke of the younger generations, of the act of forming them, of a vision for the future: I am in agreement, it is this that we must aim for. We need to join forces, we need a generative network, liberating the “sym-bolic”, namely the primacy of the bond and of the relationship present in the complexity of the reality created, from the human to the global. I think it is indispensable to explore paths concretely and to unfold relational visions in education, including within the Church. One basic point: I think intelligent attention should be paid to the formation processes and practices used in the education of priests, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, and of consecrated men and women, Ratio Formationis, wherever the education in the humanum needs to be revisited in its original splendour, revisiting too the interdisciplinary, symbolic, lexical, and performative aspects without false separations.

Laura C. Paladino – I am a biblicist but my formation did not begin at the Pontifical Universities. I have two degrees and a doctorate, all of which I obtained at state universities. I opted to study the Bible in Jerusalem at the age of 15, having had an extraordinary Franciscan father, Fr Pietro Kaswalder, as my guide on pilgrimage. I owe him this remembrance because it was during that experience that I made my decision to devote my studies to Sacred Scripture. When the time came for me to select a university a single idea guided me: to take the Gospel to where it is not found, and thus to devote myself to the Bible in the state and public universities, first in Rome and then in Bologna. The subject that I studied, without initially choosing it, has always been marriage, it might have been assigned to me because I was a woman. In any case it was a revelation, both for the path my personal life would take and for the focus of my subsequent research. In studying the various aspects of the subject we immediately realize that this is an original, constitutive theme: the phrase “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18) is not, of course, for spouses and no one else, but rather for everyone. Thus, very gradually, having studied marriage, I started to follow in particular spiritual exercises for married couples, something that I am still doing, and it happened that when I was preaching some couples would come and talk to me, that is, they wanted spiritual direction; this seemed very odd to me and I talked about it to my spiritual father who told me: “remember that yours is a pastoral vocation”. I shall always treasure the memory of that moment and of those words, because they guided me from that time on: pastoral means that it is not male or female but describes a task, a vocation and a mission, addressed to both men and women, each one with his or her difference. My spiritual father was a priest, indeed, he was a bishop and thus he belonged to the hierarchy: I say this in order to stress the need for us to preserve our full trust in the fact that there exist in the hierarchy awareness and appreciation of all that we as women do. He said to me further: “You can do everything that Mary did. And do you think that people didn’t turn to her for advice?”. Effectively Mary was at the Apostle’s gathering, she accompanied the newborn Church with her presence, the presence of a woman who had been the dwelling place of the eternal Word of the Father; from that time on I clearly understood this truth and this vocation. It then happened that I was summoned by some bishops, particularly enlightened, as Sr Elena said. I remember the first time this happened: I was called by a diocese and the bishop invited me to preach the spiritual exercises to his priests. I was still very young and I remember so many gazes, both positive and negative. The bishop, a man of great wisdom, had asked me to speak of the nuptial aspect of the priesthood and to set this call, which is for everyone, in the priest’s life and mission. It was an experience which greatly strengthened me and convinced me even more of the need to believe in a fertile presence of women and of their words in the life of the Church and in the openness which the hierarchy is showing in this respect. I now teach in Pontifical Universities including the Pontifical Gregorian University, because I later obtained the pontifical qualifications and in particular I teach foreign candidates for the priesthood. Of course, in the individual subjects studied I bring them my favourite arguments which have been enriched over time but have not changed. I think that the main subject on which to reflect in the Church today is the fertile relationship between the man and the woman in their difference which leads to unity. Their difference is a principle of vitality: it is an existential, as well as a scientific, truth. The aim is to emphasize this difference without putting an accent on the one or the other of the two poles, since they must both be valued for the good of humanity and of the Church. As I said to Sabina during the interview and reaffirmed in the book, I consider that it would be an error to counter millennia of male domination in the same equally damaging unilateral manner. We are asked for a different style. The image of spouses can help us. What is marriage? It is a collaboration, it is a call to be together to make one flesh without the predominance or abuse of power of either the one or the other. Let us also speak of this in the Church, of how we can collaborate with our differences, because we are different, of how we can find ways for real, concrete collaboration, appreciating what is different with mutual trust, to make a single flesh which is the mystical Body of Christ. I believe that this is the challenge for our epoch.

Sr Maria Letizia Panzetti – I belong to the Congregation of the Daughters of St Paul and I have had the good fortune to work in the area of communications, editorial and audio-visual, in the community of the Pauline Sisters which has spread to more than 50 countries across the world. I only want to say thank you to Sabina Caligiani with whom we collaborated very willingly, for it was not only a matter of preparing a book for publication but also of spreading a thought. I was thinking of how important it is that women read this book to take more responsibility for themselves, to make themselves more aware of their possibilities, thanks to their typically feminine inner riches, and that men who need a better understanding also read it. Here of course the subject emerged that men must open the structures wider and that we must be more proactive towards them in the hope that they will be more open. The Church needs all energies, male and female, to be united for her evangelization.

Valentina Brachi – I’m a young student approaching marriage; a Catholic religion teacher and a Vatican journalist as a hobby. During my university course – I gained a degree in the history of modern and contemporary Christianity at the Università degli studi in Florence – thanks to the guidance of Prof. Bruna Bocchini Camaiani, I came into contact with the Coordination of Italian Women Theologians on which I wrote my degree thesis. My need to approach the theological world stemmed from this desire of mine to know more about the roles of women in the Church. I enrolled at the Istituto di Scienze Religiose in Florence. In this institute there are many young people, both lay people and religious, who have the possibility of confronting each other every day in an environment which is undoubtedly privileged.

However what we often lack is a mediator to connect the first generation of women theologians with the current generation which is in the process of being trained, a figure who succeeds in making the most of the identity and plurality of women with an inclusive and not exclusive simplicity. I have had the good fortune to be able to write a brief article for L’Osservatore Romano on St Valentine. It was a very small experience but one which nonetheless succeeded in opening my eyes, since it was able to bring friends and acquaintances close to a reality that they didn’t know. This is why I consider important the figure of a mediator who can build a bridge between theology and us women. I consider it timely that the relationship with young people should also be fully appreciated, a topic that is particularly dear to me. At the recent Synod on young people, in my opinion their voices should have been called for more often. Perhaps that mediator between the Church, the world and the journalists was lacking, although the fruits of an informed effort are visible in the birth of the important Final Document.

Lastly, women: I feel I am a granddaughter of the Second Vatican Council and I am hoping for a Third Vatican Council. The Second Vatican Council seems distant to us young people, to us it seems part of the past. I feel the need for an involvement of the younger generation; in classes we talk about a young Church, whose identity nevertheless risks being too anchored in the past. We must make innovation our own in order to live it and understand it. Thanks to the conciliar Spirit, to the struggles of the women theologians and of the previous generations, we are here today with the possibility of being able to study in theological faculties, to ask for a greater involvement of women in the Church. All this must not end, it must be carried forward: today we should not be surprised that the head of a dicastery in the Curia is a woman – but this should be routine, it should be the norm.

Marta Croppo – I am the youngest person here, I am only 19 years old: I am in my first year of philosophy, studying at La Sapienza University. Last year I had the marvellous opportunity to write one of the meditations for the Way of the Cross. I was deeply struck by Cecilia Costa’s reflection: recovering an identity. On our part (the part of us very young people), there is no need to renew or to introduce new, more modern values – because Christianity in itself is modern, it is sufficient unto itself and there is no need to add anything else. There is a problem of identity, of recovering, also from the sociological viewpoint, of the relationship between nature and culture – which means “who am I as a man, as a woman, as a Christian?” – which is why it is pointless demonizing specific categories such as complementarity or reciprocity. If as Pope Francis says there is no other Christ than the Crucified Christ, perhaps there is no Church which is not a bride. We need to reflect on this, to recover these original categories, as was said about marriage which is an original category not only for the spouses but indeed is inherent in human beings.

Another fundamental thing: feeling part of a story. Perhaps I have had a privileged experience, since I was taught from the beginning an approach to faith of this type, and of which the interpretation of the Bible in primis is a mark. It is undoubtedly important to recover a way of passing this on to us young people, but not with a new language, I would say with a language “just as it is”, emphasizing the fact that it speaks of our lives. For example, the obvious expedient in much American literature of talking about the desert and thus of the Old Testament can be one of the infinite starting points (another way of returning to the original questions and categories, even philosophically speaking). As regards American literature, I would like to take the example of a woman writer who in this sense is central, namely Flannery O’Connor – a woman and a Catholic – who at a dinner with friends and teaching experts, discussing what the Eucharist was, whether or not it was a symbol, dared to say: “If it’s a symbol, may it go to the devil!”. We need to recover this type of language too, without misrepresenting, indeed strengthening, what the Church and Christianity have always been. I feel like saying only this.

Marinella Perroni — I can be only telegraphically brief and thus risk being apodeictic. I totally refuse to rediscover myself in the word “feminine”, since it risks being the sum of all stereotypes and in fact has a strong charge which goes against women’s identity. Every time you have used this word, I’ve said to myself “no”. Some woman referred to the publication of the Coordinamento del teologhe italiane [coordination of Italian women theologians], Non contristare lo spirit [do not sadden the spirit]. It first saw the light 12 years ago and I remember that we have been discussing ever since which term we should use, “feminist” or “feminine”. We always found ourselves agreeing that if the term “feminist” is so detested, especially in the Church, it means that it does not ensure the survival of stereotypes and is thus healthy. We are clearly speaking of categories of thought and of analytical instruments, as well as of the movements of the past. This brings me to the second question. It seems to me that Yvonne centred it perfectly when she spoke of the need to select criteria. Women are not all equal, nor are they an indistinct magma in which they all share the fact of having a female sexuality. That women today must be integrated everywhere corresponds to a criterion of human justice. However, I do not want to be chosen merely because I am a woman. In the Church in particular being a woman is loaded with ambiguity and all too often means nothing other than a projection of the clerical idea of women. I believe that we should demand that today, after the 150 years that women have been trying to make the voice of their difference heard, the criteria for knowing how to evaluate the specific importance of all the various women should be clear. To the criterion of sexual difference should be added that of their competences and critical contributions.

Giorgia Salatiello – I initially wanted to fit myself in after Yvonne, then there were so many interventions that stimulated me, starting with Sr Marcella Farina’s, which is why I am only recounting one small experience which may be useful in some way. About six or seven years ago my husband and I were asked by the Gregorian to give a lesson at the Centre for the Formation of Formators on the Priesthood. In the lesson we give my husband and I each speak in turn. Then in the second part of the lesson which is broader, we move on to the discussion and these formators ask questions; In fact, no one asks my husband any questions but they all ask me questions. This may give food for thought. And let us then reflect on what we have to be able to say and on how we can say it, notwithstanding the fact that I am in agreement with Marinella Perroni’s latest intervention, that the point is not having a female physiology but probably having a somewhat different baggage of experience.

Stella Morra – I begin by saying that I fully subscribe to what Marinella Perroni said but let me add a few things. Firstly: I do not at all like and do not share a generic reasoning, for example, that there are male or female stereotypes; because it’s true, there are, but a difference in power exists and this makes a radical difference.

Secondly: documents do not have to be beautiful but rather effective, even if they are badly written. It doesn’t matter to me whether a document passes on more or less pathos, what is important is that it is legally effective, in the sense that it must create conditions by which peoples’ lives are subsequently addressed so that the objective facts may change; it is for this reason that people may live better, not because a document warms our hearts. Indeed this could resemble a form of populism. It must touch people’s lives and possibly improve them, it must create conditions which make people in the Church no longer feel ill at ease but begin to feel better.

Thirdly: yes, it is true that there are thousands of priests and bishops who are good, sensible and kind; we all have some friend whom we love because every now and then we risk losing our faith and go and have a chat with him and cheer ourselves up. There are numerous generous people, but I am fed up with the fact that my baptismal right to be respected in the Church is bound to the goodness or lack of it in the bishop I happen to end up with. My baptismal dignity must be guaranteed by something that is a little more objective. Thus when people talk of making women’s voices heard it is not because we should be co-responsible for all these things (which ultimately goes without saying), but because in the meantime they have trodden us down. This has to be said. History has imposed stereotypes on us. Stereotypes regarding women do much more harm than stereotypes regarding men. And the stereotypes regarding men harm us too. There is a different nuance, which is why they do twice as much harm, since they increase the power of men. They should not in this case be called stereotypes, they should be called illusions of power, but this is another matter.

Sr Marcella Farina – Connecting with the human as mentioned by Nicla Spezzati, but also already when our action in the universities was being discussed, I asked myself many questions about not falling into the misunderstanding that instruction equals formation equals education, for instruction is certainly not enough, our lessons are not enough for educative and formative processes to occur. In this sense it seems to me that one of the weak points of this ecclesial clericalism lies, precisely, in the formative projects because there is an ideal of priesthood which in a certain manner is projected on to projects, in which the priest is indeed the one who is the shepherd, the one who lays down his life for his sheep. Obviously a boy who enters a seminary straight from the family enters with a vocation and easily identifies with this heroic experience of life. And according to me the problem lies here: that there should be formative projects full of idealism but also with much realism, which is an incentive to recognize limitations, frailties and vulnerabilities. Looking at the educational projects, I see instead that they are sometimes very lacking in realism. The other element I would like to recall has already been expressed in Paola Lazzarini’s words: not to be afraid to take up subjects which are marginalized at the cultural level, subjects such as breast-feeding, motherhood, the couple, the love between the couple. Because by neglecting these fundamental human themes we are also creating difficulties among the younger generation which is why they may postpone the experience of creating a family or of getting married. In my view the experience of realism and the experience of idealism should be put together without marginalizing the themes of the human. And they should certainly be rethought critically.

Yvonne Dohna Schlobitten – Yes, it is necessary to take up certain important subjects. In a continent where ever fewer children are born, perhaps we should begin first. Begin in primis to understand why there are no longer marriages, why no one any longer goes to Church. All women are being educated in things which may no longer be useful, which no longer interest them, instead of teaching an approach, also an attitude of taking an interest, of desiring to have a relationship, of having the ability to say no, with all the problems of abuse, of having the capacity for saying this or that has happened. And this, to my mind, has to do with the relationship between the Church and the world and with the idea that the world is bad and the Church is good. I would like to reflect on educating and on having an approach, on formation. At times the critical approach seems to vanish, the desire to go beyond, truly to compare oneself with the world, to assume responsibilities. And to my mind it is from here that we should start again.

Sabina Caligiani – The broad confrontation which has developed goes in the same direction. Many starting points for reflection have been offered, important analyses on experiences have emerged, as well as methods to be implemented and many subjects to address. All this could be the beginning of a fertile theoretical and human contribution to studies and experiences on gender differences, under the banner of participation and sharing, of openness to differences and of the search for complex new syntheses and unity. A new project could come into being in which all women take part, as well, obviously, as those men who are convinced that the definition of humanity, as it emerges from Women’s Voices, cannot but be “dual”: male and female, in the fundamental differences which create the harmony of the human.

edited by Silvia Guidi

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