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Commitment to the promotion of women

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 24 November 1999 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Among the challenges of this historical moment on which the Great Jubilee spurs us to reflect, I drew attention in my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente to the issue of respect for women's rights (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 51). Today I would like to recall certain aspects of the women's question, which I have also spoken of on other occasions.

Sacred Scripture sheds great light on the theme of women's advancement, pointing out God's plan for man and woman in the two accounts of creation.

The first one says:  "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1: 27). This statement is the basis of Christian anthropology, because it identifies the foundation of man's dignity as a person in his creation "in the likeness" of God. At the same time, the passage clearly says that neither man nor woman separately are the image of the Creator, but man and woman in their reciprocity. Both are equally God's masterpiece.

In the second account of creation, through the symbolism of the creation of woman from man's rib, Scripture stresses that humanity is not in fact complete until woman is created (cf. Gn 2: 18-24). She is given a name whose verbal assonance in Hebrew indicates a relationship to man (is/issah). "God created man and woman together and willed each for the other" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 371). That woman is presented as a "helper fit for him" (Gn 2: 18) should not be interpreted as meaning that woman is man's servant - "helper" is not the equivalent of "servant"; the psalmist says to God:  "You are my help" (Ps 70: 5; cf. Ps 115: 9, 10, 11; Ps 118: 7; Ps 146: 5); rather the whole statement means that woman is able to collaborate with man because she complements him perfectly. Woman is another kind of "ego" in their common humanity, which consists of male and female in perfectly equal dignity.

2. There is good reason to rejoice in the fact that in contemporary culture reflection on what it means to be feminine has led to a deeper understanding of the human person in terms of his "being for others" in interpersonal communion. Today, to think of the person in his self-giving dimension is becoming a matter of principle. Unfortunately it is often disregarded at the practical level. Thus, among the many assaults on human dignity, that widespread violation of woman's dignity manifested in the exploitation of her person and her body should be strongly condemned. All practices that offend woman's freedom or femininity must be vigorously opposed:  so-called "sexual tourism", the buying and selling of young girls, mass sterilization and, in general, every form of violence to the other sex.

A very different attitude is required by the moral law, which proclaims the dignity of woman as a person created in the image of God-Communion! Today it is more necessary than ever to present the biblical anthropology of relationality, which helps us genuinely understand the human being's identity in his relationship to others, particularly between man and woman. In the human person considered in his "relationality", we find a vestige of God's own mystery revealed in Christ as a substantial unity in the communion of three divine Persons. In the light of this mystery it is easy to understand the statement of Gaudium et spes that the human being, who "is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself" (Gaudium et spes, n. 24). The difference between man and woman calls for interpersonal communion, and meditation on the dignity and vocation of woman strengthens the concept of the human being based on communion (cf. Mulieris dignitatem, n. 7).

3. Precisely this capacity for communion, which the feminine dimension strongly evokes, enables us to reflect on God's fatherhood, thus avoiding the imaginative projections of a patriarchal sort that are so challenged, and not without reason, in some currents of contemporary literature. It is a question, in fact, of discerning the Father's face within the mystery of God as Trinity, that is, as perfect unity in distinction. The figure of the Father must be reconsidered in his relationship to the Son, who is turned towards him from all eternity (cf. Jn 1: 1) in the communion of the Holy Spirit. It should also be stressed that the Son of God became man in the fullness of time and was born of the Virgin Mary (cf. Gal 4: 4), and this too sheds light on the feminine dimension, showing Mary as the model of woman as willed by God. The greatest event in human history took place in her and through her. The fatherhood of God the Father is related not only to God the Son in his eternal mystery, but also to his Incarnation in a woman's womb. If God the Father, who "begets" the Son from all eternity, turned to a woman, Mary, to "beget" him in the world, thus making her "Theotokos", Mother of God, this is not without significance for understanding woman's dignity in the divine plan.

4. Therefore, the Gospel message about God's fatherhood, far from restricting woman's dignity and role, serves instead as a guarantee of what the "feminine" humanly symbolizes, that is, to welcome, to care for the human person and to give birth to life. All this is rooted, in a transcendent way, in the mystery of the eternal divine "begetting". Certainly God's fatherhood is entirely spiritual. Nevertheless it expresses that eternal reciprocity and relationality which are truly Trinitarian and are the origin of all fatherhood and motherhood, and the basis of the riches common to male and female.

Reflection on woman's role and mission is particularly appropriate this year, which is dedicated to God the Father, and spurs us to work with ever greater effort so that all the possibilities that are proper to woman in the Church and in society will be acknowledged."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

J’accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins francophones, en particulier le groupe du Mouvement mondial des Travailleurs chrétiens et la délégation des jeunes de Melun. J’accorde à tous de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

I extend a cordial welcome to the Lutheran visitors from Karlstad in Sweden, and I thank the Saint Louis Cathedral Choir from New Orleans for their song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially from England, India, the United States and Taiwan, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sehr herzlich grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Eine große Freude ist es mir, unter Euch eine Gruppe von Priestern aus dem Erzbistum Köln willkommen zu heißen, die ihr 40-jähriges Weihejubiläum feiern. Gott begleite mit seiner väterlichen Führung weiterhin Euer seelsorgliches Wirken. Gern erteile ich den hier Anwesenden und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan oder das Fernsehen verbunden sind, den Apostolischen Segen.

Me es grato saludar a los peregrinos de lengua española, de modo especial a los grupos venidos de España, Guatemala, Venezuela y de otros Países de América Latina, así como a los alumnos del Colegio "San Francisco del Alba" de Chile, y de Argentina: a los Cadetes de Policía de la Escuela "Coronel Falcón y a los Cadetes de la Escuela Penitenciaria. Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí, os bendigo con afecto.

Muchas gracias.

Dou as boas-vindas aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, de modo particular ao grupo vindo de Portugal para se juntar aos seus Bispos em visita ad Limina, esperando que esta romagem e este encontro, claras expressões de união com o Sucessor de Pedro, favoreçam em todos uma maior renovação do espírito e revigorem o dom precioso da fé. Com afecto, vos concedo, a vós e aos vossos familiares, a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególności: delegację władz miejskich i samorządowych oraz duchowieństwa z Piotrkowa Trybunalskiego, pielgrzymów z Limanowej, Tymbarku, Jurkowa, Laskowej i Wiśnicza Starego; nadto: z Jelcza-Laskowic, parafie św. Maksymiliana Kolbego i Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej z Włoch, z Białej Podlaskiej - młodzież i wychowawców, grupy turystyczno-pielgrzymkowe z Opola i innych miast Polski.

Dzisiejsza katecheza w przygotowaniu do Roku 2000 była poświęcona ojcostwu Boga, które w szczególny sposób odzwierciedla się w godności człowieka stworzonego przez Boga na Jego podobieństwo jako mężczyzna i niewiasta. Tematem szczegółowym była właśnie godność niewiasty, godność kobiety. Wszystko, co jej zagraża, wszystko, co jej służy.

Temat ten wielokrotnie był już przeze mnie poruszany w liście apostolskim « Mulieris Dignitatem », a poza tym w cyklu katechez, które ukazały się w tomie pod tytułem Mężczyzną i niewiasta, stworzył ich. Dzisiejsza katecheza, łącząca się z owym cyklem, nawiązuje do Księgi Rodzaju, zawiera w sobie analizę stworzenia człowieka jako mężczyzny i niewiasty na obraz i podobieństwo Boga, a więc sięga tam, gdzie znajdują się same korzenie godności zarówno mężczyzny, jak i kobiety.

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski. Niech Bóg błogosławi na zbliżający się już okres Adwentu.

Pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua croata

Saluto di cuore l’Arcivescovo di Split-Makarska, Mons. Ante Juric, unitamente ai rappresentanti di Solin. Benvenuti!

Carissimi, la vostra odierna presenza qui, presso la tomba di S. Pietro, suscita in me bellissimi ricordi del mio soggiorno nella vostra città e nel Santuario della Madonna dell’Isola il 4 ottobre 1998 dove, alla vigilia del nuovo millennio, ho pregato per la Chiesa nelle regioni croate e per il vostro popolo, e ho incontrato i catechisti, gli insegnanti, i rappresentanti dei movimenti ecclesiali, e i giovani. Vi ripeto quanto dissi in quel luogo nel quale si trovano le profonde radici della vostra identità religiosa e nazionale: “Siate fieri dei tesori di fede che la storia vi ha affidato. Custoditeli gelosamente”.

Affido voi, la vostra città e l’intera vostra Patria all’intercessione e alla protezione della Madonna dell’Isola, della Madonna del Grande voto battesimale croato, ed imparto a tutti la Benedizione Apostolica.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ceca

Un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini della Scuola Superiore per Autisti, di Ústí nad Orlici!

Possa questo vostro pellegrinaggio alle tombe degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo rinvigorire la vostra fede e l’amore per la Chiesa di Cristo e accrescere in voi il desiderio di perfezione spirituale. Con questi voti, volentieri vi benedico.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovena

Saluto i soci della democrazia cristiana da Izlak in Slovenia. Possa la visita ai monumenti cristiani della città eterna approfondire la vostra fede e lo zelo per il bene della nazione, onde poter in seguito comunicarli al prossimo. Con questo desiderio vi impartisco la mia benedizione apostolica.

* * *

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, do il mio fraterno benvenuto a Monsignor Carmelo Cassati, Arcivescovo emerito di Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie, qui presente con un vasto gruppo di fedeli per ricordare il suo cinquantesimo anniversario di Ordinazione presbiterale. Carissimi fratelli e sorelle, mi compiaccio per la vostra presenza così numerosa. Leggo in essa un segno di affetto per il vostro zelante Pastore. Mentre vi esorto a custodire in cuore gli insegnamenti, invoco su di Lui copiosi doni e ricompense celesti per il lungo e generoso servizio ecclesiale, e tutti affido alla materna protezione di Maria Santissima.

Saluto i missionari di diverse Congregazioni e Diocesi, che partecipano al corso promosso dalla Pontificia Università Salesiana e dai Padri Verbiti.

Desidero salutare, poi, un gruppo di Amministratori provinciali e comunali provenienti da Asti, i soci del Serra Club, guidati dal Vescovo di Viterbo, Monsignor Lorenzo Chiarinelli, ed i membri dell'Associazione Professionale del Personale d'Albergo e delle Terme di Ischia dove non sono mai stato.

Saluto, altresì, gli organizzatori ed i partecipanti al Concorso "Il Volontario in erba", promosso dal Centro Studi Meridionali di Giovinazzo; i docenti e gli studenti dell'Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose di Foggia, guidati dall'Arcivescovo, Monsignor Domenico D'Ambrosio, venuti per ricordare il decennale dell'erezione accademica; il gruppo di studenti dell'Istituto "Marco Polo - Cattaneo" di Cecina, come pure quelli dell'Istituto "Seghetti" di Verona; la numerosa rappresentanza di cappellani, di operatori del settore della giustizia e di agenti della Polizia Penitenziaria della Regione Lazio e di Arezzo, come pure i funzionari di Polizia del Gruppo "G8".

Tutti ringrazio per la gradita presenza.

Rivolgo, infine, il mio cordiale saluto ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli.

Oggi, ricordando Sant'Andrea Dung-Lac e compagni, martiri vietnamiti, invito voi cari giovani, a lottare per rimanere sempre fedeli al Signore; esorto voi, cari ammalati, a saper accogliere con sereno abbandono quanto il Signore dona in ogni situazione della vita; auguro a voi, cari sposi novelli, di formare una famiglia veramente cristiana, attingendo la forza necessaria per realizzare tale progetto dalla Parola di Dio e dall'Eucaristia.

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