A new book on women’s leadership begins with a preface by Pope Francis. Entitled More Women’s Leadership for a Better World: Caring as the Engine for Our Common Home, the book is a joint research project of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation and the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (Sacru). Fifteen academics from 10 universities in 8 countries offered their contributions in each of their field of study.
While the pope’s entire preface is worth reading, here are 5 particular comments he made that are worth pointing out.
[A]s I said in my speech at the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops of the Pan-Amazon Region in October 2019: “we have not yet understood what the woman signifies in the Church, and we limit ourselves only to the functional aspect […] But the role of women in the Church goes well beyond functionality. And more work must continue on this.”
The Church has rich writings on women, such as Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Women and his apostolic letter Mulieres Dignitatem. But as Pope Francis points out here, there is still much more to explore and develop about the theology of woman and the value we bring to the Church and to the world by virtue of our womanhood. It is not simply what we do, in terms of tasks and roles, but who we are as women and what the feminine represents in the Church and the world that matters. We can look forward, in time, to more theological and spiritual reflection in the Church about womanhood.
Women’s thinking is different from men’s, they are more attentive to protecting the environment, their gaze is not turned to the past but to the future. Women know that they give birth in pain to achieve a great joy: to give life and open vast, new horizons. That is why women want peace, always.
This comment speaks to the power of motherhood — whether biological or not — and the fact that women tend to be oriented towards peace-making. Women care about the future because that is where their children will dwell, and where others will flourish — or not. There is a reason mothers are particularly good at driving change — they are committed to making the world a more just and peaceful place for future generations to thrive.
Women know how to express both strength and tenderness, they are good, qualified, prepared, they know how to inspire new generations (not only their children). It is right for them to be able to express these skills in every sphere, not just within the family, and to be remunerated equally with men for equal roles, commitments and responsibilities. The still existing gaps are a serious injustice.
These gaps the pope speaks of are truly an injustice because all spheres of life are made more human by women’s strength, tenderness, care, and forward- thinking. Women bring specific qualities to all places where humans live and work — whether in the home, the office, the Church, or the public square.
[W]omen make the world more beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive. They bring the grace of renewal, the embrace of inclusion and the courage to give themselves to others. Peace, then, is born of women, it rises and is rekindled by the tenderness of mothers. Therefore, the dream of peace becomes reality when we look to women.
Again, the pope here emphasizes the virtues that women and mothers possess that lead to a more loving society and more peaceful world. We look to women for peace, for harmony, for an example of what it is to make a gift of self to others.
Unfortunately, even today, some 130 million girls in the world do not go to school. There is no freedom, justice, integral development, democracy and peace without education.
This very pointed comment, given at the end of the pope’s preface, speaks to an ongoing injustice in the world which the pope clearly believes is essential to highlight.
Educating women and girls is not simply for their own betterment — which is a worthy enough reason itself — but for entire generations. Women, whether they work inside or outside the home, are the primary teachers of their children, the partners of their husbands, the healers, teachers, coordinators, planners, facilitators, and leaders in communities of every kind. They pass on the faith, the traditions, and the values, forming hearts of minds of generations to come. When women and girls are refused an education, freedom, justice, development, democracy and peace around the world are indeed compromised and suppressed.
If you have time to read the entire preface by the pope, which is not long, you can do so here.