Vatican City, 25 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Pope received in audience representatives of the CIF (Centro Italiano Femminile – Italian Women's Centre), on the occasion of their congress. This organisation was established in 1944 for the purpose of co-ordinating women and associations of a Christian nature to contribute to the reconstruction of the country through democratic participation, human advancement and solidarity. Currently the CIF proposes to act with institutions for the full exercise of the rights of citizenship and collaboration with women from diverse cultural backgrounds. It works in the civil, social and cultural fields in order to contribute to the construction of a democracy of solidarity and co-existence based on respect for human rights and the dignity of the person, in accordance with Christian spirit and principles, the Italian Constitution and laws, and European and international legislation.
In his address, Pope Francis thanked the CIF for its work over the last sixty years and for the example its members have given regarding the role of women in society and in the ecclesial community, observing that during recent decades, “alongside other cultural and social transformations, also the identity and role of women in the family, in society and in the Church has seen significant changes, and in general the participation and responsibility of women has increased”.
In this process, he recalled, “discernment on the part of the Magisterium of the Popes” has been, and still is, important, especially the publication in 1988 of Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Letter “Mulieris dignitatem” on the dignity and vocation of women, and his Message for the 1995 World Day for Peace on the theme “Women: teachers of peace”. He continued, “I too have considered the indispensable contribution of women in society … I have rejoiced in seeing many women sharing some pastoral responsibility with priests in accompanying people, families and groups, as in theological reflection, and I have expressed my hope that greater room can be made for a more capillary and incisive female presence in the Church”.
“If in the world of work and in the public sphere a more incisive contribution by the female gender is important, then this contribution also remains indispensable within the domain of the family, which for Christians is not simply a private space, but rather that 'domestic Church' whose health and prosperity is a condition for the health and prosperity of the Church of society itself”, he added. “At this point it is natural to ask: how is it possible for women to increase their effective presence in many contexts within the public sphere, in the world of work and in places where the most important decisions are made, and at the same time maintaining their presence and preferential and entirely special attention in and for the family? Here it is the field of discernment that, aside from reflection on the reality of women in society, presupposes assiduous and persistent prayer”.
“It is in dialogue with God, enlightened by prayer, that the Christian woman continually searches to answer the Lord's call, in the reality of her situation. This is a prayer that is always supported by the maternal presence of Mary. She, who cared for her divine Son, who propitiated his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, who was present on Calvary and at the Pentecost, shows you the road to take to deepen the meaning and role of women in society and to be fully faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to your mission in the world”.