Angelus Reflection: Culture Must Respect Femininity, June 18, 1995
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the course of the Fourth World Conference on Women organized by the United Nations in Beijing for next September, the international community will be called to reflect on a series of problems concerning the status of women in our time. I would like to express immediately my deep appreciation of this initiative. The theme chosen is in fact extraordinarily important, not only for women, but for the very future of the world which depends so much on the awareness women have of themselves and on the proper recognition which should be guaranteed to them. Therefore, the Church looks hopefully to all that is being done in this regard and considers it a true "sign of the times," as my venerable predecessor John XXIII pointed out in his encyclical, Pacem in Terris (no. 22). A "sign of the times" that highlights an aspect of the full truth about the human being which cannot be ignored.
Unfortunately, awareness of the identity and value of women has been obscured in the past - and still is today, in many cases - by various forms of conditioning. Indeed, they have been and are often culpably disregarded and offended by unjust and even violent practices and behavior. All this, on the threshold of the third millennium, is really intolerable! As the Church joins in denouncing all injustices that weigh on women's condition, she intends to proclaim God's plan in a positive way, so that a culture may develop that respects and welcomes "femininity."
2. As I have had more than one occasion to stress, and particularly in the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, the affirmation of woman's dignity must be the basis of this new culture, since she, like man and with man, is a person, that is, a creature made in the image and likeness of God (cf. no. 6), a creature endowed with a subjectivity from which stems her responsible autonomy in leading her own life. This subjectivity, far from isolating people and setting them in opposition, is on the contrary a source of constructive relationships, and finds its fulfillment in love. Women, no less than men, are fulfilled "in a sincere giving of self" (Gaudium et Spes, no. 24). This subjectivity is the basis of a specific way of being for woman, a way of "being feminine," which is enriching and indeed indispensable for harmonious coexistence, both within the family and in society.
3. May the Blessed Virgin help men and women in our time clearly understand God's plan for femininity. Called to the highest vocation of divine motherhood, Our Lady is the exemplary woman who developed her authentic subjectivity to the full. May Mary obtain for women throughout the world an enlightened and active awareness of their dignity, gifts, and mission.
"...the very future of the world depends so much on the awareness women have of themselves...the affirmation of woman's dignity must be the basis of this new culture..." Wow, what beautiful statements from the pope! The very reason for this website is to raise this awareness, so that women may be the source of this cultural renewal. The affirmation of women's dignity must begin with us women, acknowledging and acting upon it in our own lives and encouraging and supporting other women in our sphere of influence too...women helping women.