2016-03-09 11:50:00

VoF conference looks at women's role in the Church

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican celebrated “International Women’s Day” on Tuesday with a conference dedicated to giving a platform to women working for the Church around the world.

Listen to our report:

Held at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, this week’s gathering was the third consecutive “Voices of Faith” conference, which is an initiative of Fidel Götz Foundation, with the partnership of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

The afternoon session of the 8 March event had a five-women panel discussion which centered on the role of women in the Church

The panel was moderated by Fr. Thomas Smolich SJ, International Director of JRS in Rome. He shared his impressions with Tracey McClure about the conference, which often touched on mercy throughout.

"The theme of VoF this year was that 'Mercy requires Courage',” Fr. Smolich said. “It's very fitting with the Holy Year of Mercy, but also fitting in the stories that we heard from the people who spoke, both the women and men who, in a sense, share God's mercy and also those who experience God's mercy. It requires courage on both sides."

"What we also heard was a desire for the Church to recognize this courage, especially the courage of the voices of women, women who make up most of the Church, women who participate in many ways in the Church,” the Jesuit priest said.

He added: “They are courageous to be here; they are courageous to do what they do. [They ask us:] 'How can we, as Church, really be family and welcome all people? That's what I took away from VoF this year." 

One of the Panelists at the VoF conference was Dr. Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services in the US.

“We are here to celebrate the gifts and contributions of women but, at the same time, to also remember the challenges which they deal with every day,” she told Tracey McClure in an interview.

“Women have actually come a long way. Eighty-five percent of the work in the Church, which is not done by clerics, is done by women. At least in the United States, there are many key positions held by women."

Asked about the question of women's ordination, Woo said, "I think the pope has spoken very clearly that there will be no women's ordination. I think where the tragedy is, is that the conversation sometimes gets stopped right at that point.

“Women don't talk about other things because of that particular issue, and sometimes the Church may be skeptical about women's voices out of the concern that every conversation may lead to a conversation about women's ordination.”

“I think we should actually let that rest, so that we could proceed on the other dimensions."

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