Female leaders speak positively of pope and church

Female leaders from the secular world and some of the highest-ranking women in the Vatican spoke positively of the pope and the church at International Women’s Day events in Rome last week.

One of those women, Australian journalist Geraldine Doogue, lent her support to major institutions including the Catholic Church.

Speaking at an event organised by the Australian embassy to the Holy See, Doogue acknowledged “It’s been an exceptional few years” for Australia.

The country has been “a bit convulsed” with scandals involving several major institutions, including the Church, banks and healthcare, she said.

“Yet despite the problems with big institutions, they’re better than the alternatives on offer,” she added.

In her opinion, the question is how to improve institutions “without undermining them”.

Pointing out institutions are often scrutinised for their faults while the benefits they offer are taken for granted, she challenged people at the event to reconsider their views in this time of global mistrust of institutions as they are “crucial to opportunities for people at all levels of society”.

Another International Women’s Day event in Rome, a panel of three of the highest-ranking women in the Vatican spoke of Francis and his good grasp on the issue of women in leadership positions in the Church.

The event was organised by the Opus Dei-run Pontifical University of the Holy Cross as part of an annual course for journalists covering the Vatican.

At the event, Vatican Museums director Barbara Jatta praised Francis for having a keen grasp on the issue of women in leadership positions in the Church and for taking concrete steps in the right direction.

She said while providing more leadership for women in the Catholic Church is “complex,” her overall experience “is more than positive”.

“There’s talk of misogyny, but that’s because [30 years ago] it was a completely masculine environment, so there wasn’t the attitude of having a professional relationship with women,” she said.

But “the role of women has radically changed” in the 30 years she’s been at the Vatican, she added.

While changes in society as a whole are partly responsible, she credits Francis with the increased presence of women in leadership.

Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary for the “life” section of the Vatican department for Laity, Family and Life, spoke positively of Francis’s comments about women’s views at the recent summit on child protection.

“I am not a theologian or a canonist [but] I felt that he was expressing the true presence of women in the Church…he was vocalising what I have always felt as a woman of faith, as a woman who today works in the Church.”

Natasa Govekar, head of the theological-pastoral office of the Vatican’s communications department, said Francis’s words helped clarify the “mistaken way” in which discussion on women in the Church is sometimes viewed.

Woman “was created to bring man to relation,” and to speak of women in the Church means trying to “illuminate men and women together,” she said.


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