For the first time in its more than 100-year-old history, beginning today [31 May] the daily edition of L’Osservatore Romano will publish an insert on women on the last Thursday of every month. It will consist of four colour pages, conceived of and edited with enthusiasm and determination by several female colleagues, in order to extend the outlook of the Holy See’s newspaper to “women, Church, world”. This is in fact the title of the new initiative, open to a fundamental reality of the Christian tradition. The insert intends to spread in ever broadening circles with an international outreach to and even beyond the visible boundaries of global Catholicism. This is thanks also to the collaboration of non-Catholic writers.
Historical research shows how the emancipation and advancement of women is indebted to Christianity from its origins, despite contradictions down the centuries, due above all to the cultural context and to today’s persistent prejudices. And although the female presence in the Church has in some periods seemed to be in the shadows, this makes it no less important. In the second half of the 20th century the recognition of this element by the Holy See became more decisive, when in 1963 the new lead role of women in society especially in the Christian tradition was recognized by John XXIII as one of the “signs of the times”.
Then in 1964 it was Paul VI who, with unprecedented determination, invited several women to take part in the Second Vatican Council and in 1970 proclaimed two female saints as Doctors of the Church: Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila. He was followed by John Paul II, who likewise proclaimed Thérèse of Lisieux a Doctor in 1997, and by Benedict XVI who has solemnly defined Hildegard of Bingen also as one of the greatest women of the Middle Ages. All this is confirmation of an indispensable and valuable presence in Christ’s Church.
The insert places the new initiative explicitly under the sign of Mary, the most perfect human creature who, before the mystery of her son — the definitive revelation — “confronted these things in her heart”. This expression of Luke’s Gospel recalls the reflection which in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures inspires Joseph and Daniel’s dreams, but adds a verb which accentuates the silent protagonism of Mary, who opens herself to the one reality that counts.
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