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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora