News / Europe

Pope Stresses 'Fundamental' Value of Women in Church

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead a weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, April 3, 2013.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead a weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, April 3, 2013.
Reuters
— Pope Francis stressed the “fundamental” importance of women in the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday, a message hailed as a significant shift from the position of his predecessor Benedict.
    
Supporters of liberal reform of the Church have called on it to give a greater voice to women and recognize their importance to the largest religious denomination in the world and some groups call for women to be ordained as priests.
    
The head of the Women's Ordination Conference, which calls for women to be treated equally in the Church and to be allowed to become priests and bishops, said Francis's words were the most encouraging she had heard in her lifetime, but did not go far enough.

“While the pope was trying to be positive about women's role, where he's actually wrong is that women were actually disciples, like Mary Magdalene,” WOC Executive Director Erin Saiz Hanna said. “He said women are able to communicate Christ's words, but actually women can't preach so that's a false statement.”
    
The Vatican says woman cannot be priests as Jesus Christ willingly chose only men as his apostles. Advocates of a female priesthood reject this position, saying Jesus was merely conforming to the customs of his times.
    
Francis, elected last month as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, said women had always had a special mission in the Church as “first witnesses” of Christ's resurrection, and because they pass belief onto their children and grandchildren.

“In the Church, and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord,” Francis told thousands of pilgrims at his weekly audience in S. Peter's Square.
    
He said that in the Bible, women were not recorded as witnesses to Christ's resurrection because of the Jewish law of the time that did not deem women or children to be reliable witnesses.

“In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role ... The evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria,” Francis said.

Reform
    
The address was the second time Francis had spoken of women's role as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, a subject of bedrock importance to the Catholic faith.
    
His Easter Vigil address on Saturday made prominent mention of women and urged believers not to fear change.
    
Pope Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome, Italy, Mar. 28, 2013.Pope Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome, Italy, Mar. 28, 2013.
x
Pope Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome, Italy, Mar. 28, 2013.
Pope Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome, Italy, Mar. 28, 2013.
Francis's decision a week ago to include women in a traditional foot-washing ritual drew ire from traditionalists, who see the custom as a re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles and said it should therefore be limited to men.
    
Marinella Perroni, a theologian and leading member of the Association of Italian Women Theologians, which promotes female experts on religion and their visibility in the Church, said the pope's words marked a significant shift from the previous pope.

“The fact that the pope acknowledges that the progressive removal of female figures from the tradition of the resurrection ... is due to human judgments, distant from those of God...introduces a decidedly new element compared to the previous papacy,” she said.

The election of Francis, an Argentinian, last month came in the wake of another break with tradition when predecessor Pope Benedict became one of the few pontiffs in history to resign.

His 76-year-old successor has set a new tone for the papacy, earning a reputation for simplicity by shunning some ornate items of traditional dress, using informal language in his addresses, and so far choosing to live in a simple residence rather than the regal papal apartments.

Sources inside the Vatican have said Francis could reform the Vatican's bureaucracy and restructure or even close down the Vatican's bank after a series of scandals at the heart of the Holy See that damaged the Church's reputation.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid