· Vatican City ·



Women and men of tomorrow

04 May 2024

Liturgist Elena Massimi writes that today, in the year of grace 2024, “there is still a risk of encountering parish priests who openly prefer to be assisted at the altar by children, by boys, not tolerating the presence of girls. Even the term used to define such service recalls the ‘male’ horizon: altar servers, that is, little clerics. One wonders what experience of Church these girls, the potential adult Christians of the future, have”. Questions reflected upon by Women Church World in this issue dedicated to the relationship of girls with the Church and, conversely, of the Church with them. The occasion is the first World Children’s Day convened by the Pope in Rome for May 25th and 26th.

Its’ not just, obviously, a problem of “altar girls”. The point is: what kind of space is there for girls in today’s Church? And are the youngest among the faithful comfortable with what they find? “Sunday morning after Mass — a nun told us some time ago — in my parish the girls either play soccer or have nothing: there’s only a soccer field”. So is it also a matter of places? The question, theologian Rita Torti advances, implies another: “What kind of women do we want these girls (and, correlatively, these boys) to become?”. Curious, attentive, quick, in Western countries girls show little identification with the liturgy; as soon as they enter adolescence they free themselves from processions with the little angels that are very popular among their peers in the Amazon who can’t wait to put on the tunic and wings. It’s what one has or doesn’t have that changes perspective.

For centuries, young women have been educated not to educate themselves, to modesty, and obedience. To have a subordinate role in the family and in society. For centuries, this has conditioned female life even within the Church where the relationships between men and women have been affected by intellectual disparity. However, it must be recognized and asserted that the Church herself has historically deployed an extraordinary commitment to the promotion of girls and continues to do so in the areas of the Global South where rights are shamefully limited. But what about them? How do girls imagine God? The students of a Roman elementary school speak of Him as a reliable, smiling, open, conversational person.

There is an artist who has initiated a constant dialogue with girls and adolescents: Banksy. From the outset, the most famous among street art exponents, as critic Gianluca Marziani emphasizes, “feels the urgency to protect young people from bad governance, unjust laws, from the little protection that the powerful reserve for them”.