The Holy Father is praying that laity, especially women, will take up their baptismal call and live as protagonists of the Church.
The Pope Video presenting the Holy Father’s prayer intention for October reminds us of the baptismal call: “No one has been baptized a priest or a bishop. We have all been baptized as lay people,” the pope points out. “Lay people are protagonists of the Church.”
During this missionary month, Pope Francis is highlighting the role of the laity, lamenting that “women tend to be left aside” and asking especially that women be given participation in “areas of responsibility in the Church.”
Each month, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (which includes the Eucharistic Youth Movement) presents the pope’s intention with The Pope Video, produced in collaboration with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life with participation from senior Vatican officials and from Vatican Media journalists.
Change of mentality
Francis has repeatedly called for women to take a greater leadership role in the Church.
Various gestures of his pontificate have emphasized that desire, including, on a spiritual level, his decision in 2016 to elevate the memorial of Mary Magdalene to the rank of a liturgical feast. In the text of the new Mass’s preface, the saint is defined as the “Apostle of the Apostles.”
This decision highlights the importance of Mary Magdalene, the first who saw the face of the Lord after his Resurrection from among the dead, the first whom the risen Jesus called by name, and the first to receive from Jesus Himself the mission of announcing his Resurrection.
Then, in a practical vein, since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has named more and more women to roles of responsibility in the Church.
Fr. Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, observes that “since 2013, much has been accomplished, but more needs to be done.”
He calls to mind words of Pope Francis from Evangelii Gaudium: “Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded” (EG 104).
Regarding this video, in which Francis promotes “the integration of women in the settings where important decisions are made,” Fr. Fornos points out that “by virtue of Baptism, we are all called to faithfully proclaim and serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to be missionary disciples of the Lord. Nonetheless, among the lay faithful, women have been consciously and unconsciously relegated to an inferior level. As Francis reminded us in Querida Amazonia, many women, moved by the Holy Spirit, keep the Church alive in many parts of the world with remarkable devotion and deep faith. It’s essential that they participate more and more in areas where decisions are made. This requires a profound change of mentality; it requires our conversion, which implies prayer.”
Not about quotas
Dr. Linda Ghisoni, Under-Secretary for the Department of Lay Faithful, reflects: “In the October 2020 video dedicated to the mission of the laity in the Church, the Holy Father begins by speaking about Baptism. This is very important because it allows us to understand that the desire to have greater participation on the part of laity—and of women in particular—in areas of responsibility of the Church should not be interpreted as if it were a sociological project, or a desire to ensure greater quotas for power sharing between women and men, or between laity and clergy.
“In other words, it’s not a demand for the opportunity to obtain jobs. Indeed, if we take cognizance of the meaning of our Baptism, we will understand what our place in the Church is: for the Church to be itself, it cannot do without the specific contributions of laity, of women, who by vocation are an integral part of it.”
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