Reflecting on women in the Church and society

Dr Donna Orsuto, director of The Lay Centre, meets Pope Francis at the papal audience 7 February, following the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Dr Donna Orsuto (left), director of The Lay Centre, meets Pope Francis at an audience 7 February, following the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The director of The Lay Centre, Dr Donna Orsuto, was one of 10 women who participated in various parts of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, from 4 to 7 February, on the theme, “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Council president, specifically wanted the sessions to be led by women. Dr Orsuto said a highlight was working together women, modelling a new way of proceeding that left more room for open discussion.

The participants also participated in the Papal Audience, held 7 February.  During the audience, Pope Francis called for a “more widespread and incisive female presence” in the Church.

He also said while the “effective presence of women” in the public sphere, in decision-making and in the world of work must be encouraged and promoted, so must their “presence and preferential attention for the family” be upheld.

Women must not have to carry the burden of deciding between the family and an effective presence in public life, he said.

“Rather, all institutions, including the ecclesial community, are called to ensure freedom of choice for women, so that they have the possibility to take on social and ecclesial responsibilities in a way that is in harmony with family life,” he said.

The Pope also made reference to human trafficking and domestic violence, saying: “The female body is unfortunately, not infrequently, attacked and disfigured, even by those who should be guardians and companions in life.”

He called for an end to the “many forms of slavery” of women’s bodies and a commitment “to work to defeat this form of degradation.”

Dr Orsuto spoke with Catholic News Service and with Crux about the women’s contribution to the assembly and the change she sees happening in the Church.

Other women participants included Italian athlete Fiona May, and Sr Eugenia Bonetti, a Consolata Missionary Sister, who are working against human trafficking.

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