(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis earlier today met with participants at a national conference sponsored by the Italian Women’s Centre, which is due to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its foundation in October of this year. The Italian Women’s Centre (Centro Italiano Femminile, or CIF) was set up in 1944 as a federation of Catholic women’s associations. It was established in response to the need for guidance on civic and social issues which arose at the end of the Second World War, when Italy introduced universal suffrage and millions of women were called to vote for the first time ever.
Pope Francis opened his address by giving thanks for the organisation’s work over the past 70 years and for its value as witness to the changing role of women within Catholic communities and Italian society as a whole. In recent decades, the Pope said, within the context of other cultural and societal developments, the role of women has been greatly transformed, their participation and responsibilities have increased. It is with great joy, he added, that I see many women sharing pastoral responsibilities with priests, both in theological reflection and by supporting individuals, families and communities, and I hope the space for women to contribute incisively to the life of our Church may continue to increase.
If the contribution of women to the public or professional sphere is important, Pope Francis went on, their contribution to family life is even more vital. But at this point, he said, the question arises naturally – how is it possible for any woman to develop an incisive presence in the many areas of public and professional life where important decisions are made, and at the same time to maintain a special presence within the family? This, the Pope said, is the field of discernment, which requires assiduousness and perseverance in prayer, as well as reflection on the reality of women within society.
It is in dialogue with God, Pope Francis concluded, that Christian women must answer his call – a dialogue which is always supported by Mary. May she – who cherished her divine son, who propitiated his first miracle at the wedding in Cana, who was present on Calvary and at Pentecost – show you the path to understanding the role of women within society.
Text from Vatican Radio website