The equality I seek

30 April 2021

To listen to women’s experience “with attention” and “courage”. This is the invitation addressed to all Jesuits by Father General Arturo Sosa, who on March 8 announced the creation of an international commission on the role and responsibilities of women in the Society of Jesus. The commission is made up of six women who are involved in various capacities, from Colombia to Kenya, in bodies in the Ignatian world, one layperson and three Jesuits.  The new commission is the result of a challenge launched by Father Sosa at the 50th anniversary assembly of the Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology. At that time, the General invited us to consider “the place of women in our apostolic institutions and priorities” and the women’s delegation responded promptly by asking for an ad hoc body. Father Sosa has touched on the issue several times.  In 2017, he described “the fullness of women’s participation” as not yet achieved. The following year, during a briefing of the Synod, “If there is a malaise, it is a sign that something is not right and it can be an opportunity to identify a path and move forward”. The women on the committee are Donna Andrade, Maria Elissa Jayme Lao, Maria del Camen Munoz, Mary Sujita, Cecilia Vanneste, Catherine Waiyaki.

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There are those who consider gender equality in the Church as being intertwined with the demand for a female priesthood. This debate is particularly lively in Germany where Weil Gott es so will [Because God wills it], the book by Sister Philippa Rath, Benedictine abbess of St Hildegard’s Abbey in Ruedesheim-Eibingen, is causing much discussion both inside and outside the Church, with different ways of viewing the situation. Sister Philippa has also joined an international campaign launched by Voices of Faith calling for a greater voice for women in the Church.

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Mary of Nazareth, of course. But also Magdalene, the anonymous Syrophoenician mother, the Samaritan woman, Martha of Bethany and her sister, along with many others. Women whose encounters profoundly marked Jesus, enabling Him to better understand the Kingdom and His mission. This is the thesis of What Jesus Learned from Women by biblical scholar James McGrath, recently published in the United States. Written with the rigour of an essay, the book includes some fictional parts in which it seeks to explore the female figures hinted at in the Gospels. The author elucidates, “Academic language and fiction are not antithetical, for together they help us penetrate Scripture with greater depth”. 

By Lucia Capuzzi
Journalist from the Italian national newspaper Avvenire