Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world! This was Paul VI’s Message to Women at the close of the Second Vatican Council. The year is 1965, the date, 8 December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Decades later, in such troubled times as ours; we reread these words with modesty.
The Second Vatican Council began on 11 October 1962. This was a spiritual, historical, and epoch-making event, to which 23 women -10 religious and 13 laywomen- were admitted for the first time as auditors.
It is to those women who were chosen not for their representation, but for competence and role, who could not speak but fought in the commissions, to whom we dedicate this issue of Women Church World. We do so because in those years when the role of women in western societies was changing profoundly, they were protagonists and anticipators. In this month’s issue, our intention is to recount some of the stories of women who question the Church and faith today. Here are articles about the devout and dedicated and those who are considered heretical, but who do not consider themselves heretics. We begin with a portrait of one of the mothers of the council, the Australian, Rosemarie Goldie, in an article written by theologian Cettina Militello, who was her friend.
Women practice peace, and are not afraid to take difficult paths when it comes to dialogue. They instinctively build bridges, even when they are used as political pawns. For example, Constance of Staufen, the devoted Byzantine empress daughter of Frederick II of Swabia, and her marriage negotiated for the use of her father’s diplomacy that was condemned by Innocent IV.
Another example today is Azezet Habtezghi Kidane, from Eritrea, a Comboni Missionary Sisters, known to everyone as Sister Aziza. She works in East Jerusalem where, with perseverance for almost twenty years, she has maintained dialogue with everyone. In particular, Sister Aziza works to ensure that women who have had to flee their homeland in Africa get what is rightfully theirs, namely political asylum and future employment opportunities. These women have often suffered terrible experiences of sexual abuse, torture and slavery; and frequently pay with their lives for their witness of faith and humanity. The four Missionaries of Charity nuns, who were killed in 2016 in Yemen, shortly before their death wrote the following, together with the fifth survivor, to their sisters in Rome: “When the bombardments are heavy we hide under the stairs, all five of us always united. Together we live; together we die with Jesus, Mary and our Mother”. (WCW)