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Holy See: Women must be appreciated for their "unique gifts"

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations - AP

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations - AP

17/03/2015 10:41

(Vatican Radio) The world is called to “better appreciate the full greatness of woman”, which does not just include those attributes she shares with men, but also the “unique  gifts that pertain to her as woman, like her capacity for motherhood understood  not just as a reproductive act, but as a spiritual, educational, affective, nurturing  and cultural way of life.”

These were the words of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at a panel discussion on “The Family As Agent for Women's Equality and Human Rights: Fulfilling the Promises of Beijing Defending Human Dignity in Reproductive Health.”

“This work of fostering a wholesome atmosphere is ever more urgent, because we’re  living  in a  time when the unique value and dignity of motherhood in some societies  is  insufficiently  defended,  appreciated  and  advanced,  leaving  women  culturally  and  legally  in  a  position  to  choose  between  their  intellectual  and  professional  development and their personal growth as wives and mothers,” Archbishop Auza said.

“Women’s essential  contributions to the development of society through their dedication to their family  and to raising the next generation is inadequately acknowledged,” he added.

 

The full text of Archbishop Auza’s speech is printed below

 

Remarks of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza

Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations

at a Panel discussion:

The Family As Agent for Women's Equality and Human Rights:

Fulfilling the Promises of Beijing Defending Human Dignity in Reproductive Health

United Nations, New York, March 13, 2015

 

Excellencies, Colleagues, Distinguished Panelists, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great joy to join the  co-Sponsors and organizers  in welcoming all of you  here  this  morning  for  this  conference  on  the  role  of  the  family  in  promoting  women’s equality, dignity and rights.

These days, the United Nations premises in New York are welcoming thousands if  not  tens  of  thousands  of  mostly  female  members  of  delegations,  of  nongovernmental  organizations  and  guests,  to  discuss  the  status  of  women  today.  Within this context, it is fitting that we must talk also of the dignity of woman in  the context of marriage, motherhood and family.  True respect for woman starts with accepting her according to all aspects of her  humanity. It involves creating the conditions for her to live freely and fully. Pope  John Paul II used the expression “feminine genius” to highlight woman’s special  wisdom in caring for the intrinsic dignity of everyone, in nurturing life and love  and in developing others’ gifts. When women are given the opportunity to thrive  in full appreciation for all their talents and potential, the whole of society benefits.

We are thus called to foster that atmosphere in which men and boys – and women  and girls themselves  -  can better appreciate the full greatness of woman, which  includes not just the aspects she shares in common with man, but also the unique  gifts that pertain to her as woman, like her capacity for motherhood understood  not just as a reproductive act, but as a spiritual, educational, affective, nurturing  and cultural way of life.

This work of fostering a wholesome atmosphere is ever more urgent, because we’re  living  in a  time when the unique value and dignity of motherhood in some societies  is  insufficiently  defended,  appreciated  and  advanced,  leaving  women  culturally  and  legally  in  a  position  to  choose  between  their  intellectual  and  professional  development and their personal growth as wives and mothers. Women’s essential  contributions to the development of society through their dedication to their family  and to raising the next generation is inadequately acknowledged.

Sometimes their  invisible  and  often  heroic  service  is  even  disparaged  as  an  antiquated  and

unwholesome model of feminine life.  Such criticism does not come from a genuine appreciation of woman in her totality  and her true equality, in complementarity and reciprocity, with man. A notion of  womanhood that defines equality as “identity” in all things with man impoverishes  all of humanity.

The  Universal  Declaration  of  Human  Rights  affirms  that  “motherhood  and  childhood are entitled to special care and assistance” and that the “family is the  natural  and  fundamental  group  unit  of  society  and  is  entitled  to  protection  by  society  and  the State.”    A  number  of Conventions  and  Treaties,  as  well  as nonbinding documents, also enshrine this principle.  When this “fundamental group  unity of society” is ignored or attacked, we must stand and speak up for it candidly  and  with  respect  for  all,  and  courageously  advocate  for  better  structures  and  policies that support working women who desire to have children or who want to  dedicate themselves, partially or fully, to the care of their family.

Pope Francis is one of those speaking out. Last month, in a Vatican conference on  “Feminine Cultures: Equality and Difference,” among other themes he spoke about  the  importance  of  motherhood  and  praised  especially  those  women  who  are  working to renew institutions with their feminine genius. He exhorts all of us to  direct “an intense gaze upon all mothers,” and, I must add, to renew our personal  devotion and gratitude to our own mothers.

Humanity  owes  its  survival  to  the  choice  women  make  not  just  to  welcome  children,  but  raise  them  to  be  virtuous  and  authentically  human:  mothers  give  children the trust and security they  need to develop their personal identity and  positive  social  bonds.  Could  there  be  a  greater  bond  among  humans  than  that  between  the  mother  and  child?  Our  future  is  already  mirrored  in  how  we,  as  individuals and as a society, support mothers to raise strong and healthy families.

Studies  indicate  that  behind  cases  of  juvenile  delinquency  and  children  in  distressed and distressing situations is often a weak or a broken family. In this sphere, Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the contribution of so many  women who work within the family, in the areas of teaching the faith, and in all  areas  of  social,  education  and  cultural  development.  He  affirmed  that  “women  know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated into a  willingness to give time rather than to occupy space, to welcome rather than to  exclude.”

As Pope John Paul II stressed in his 1995 Letter to Women, we need “an effective  and intelligent campaign for the promotion of women, concentrating on all areas  of women's life  and beginning with a universal recognition of the dignity of women.”  Women cannot flourish when they are the victims of prejudice and discrimination,  in particular simply for the fact that they are women.

The twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration is a propitious occasion for us  to ponder all of these issues more deeply. I thank the co-sponsors and organizers  of this event, and I thank you all for coming, so that together we might ponder and  act, towards an  ever  fuller recognition and appreciation of the irreplaceable and enormous contributions women have to our past, to our present and to our future. 

Thank you!

17/03/2015 10:41