Friday 8 March was the International Woman’s Day. On this day women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements are globally celebrated. This important day sends a worldwide message of action towards hastening a more gender-balanced world.
It needs to be said that the idea of gender-balanced world is already detected and affirmed in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis. In fact, in its first chapter, this great books says that God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen 1:27). The Bible shows that man is, by far, superior than the animals. And, in reality, no other companion was found appropriate for him. That is why God creates Eve from one of Adam’s ribs or sides. It is interesting that Adam himself recognizes and accentuates the wonderful reality that Eve is, in effect, his other self. The exclamation of Adam when he found Eve next to him is very telling within the Biblical text: This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (Gen 1:23). By this powerful affirmation from Adam’s part the sacred author wanted to emphasize how, in God’s view, man and woman are equal. And this is so because, and since the beginning, they were both created equal by their Creator.
The biblical narrative of the creation of man and woman goes on by demonstrating that their equality is celebrated in the institution of marriage itself. And marriage as being composed of one man and one woman. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh (Gen 1:24). Commenting on this verse during his speech to the participants in the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for life, on Thursday, 5 October 2017, Pope Francis said:
“The biblical account of creation needs to be read and reread, in order to appreciate the breadth and depth of the loving action of the God who entrusts creation and history to the covenant of man and woman. This covenant is certainly sealed by the personal and fruitful union of love that, through marriage and the family, is the means of transmitting life. In addition to this seal, the covenant between man and woman is called to be a guiding force for society as a whole. We are invited to be responsible for the world, in the realms of culture and politics, in the world of work and economic life, as well as in the Church. This is not merely a matter of equal opportunities or mutual appreciation. It involves the way men and women understand the very meaning of life and human progress. They are called not only to speak to one another about love, but to speak with love about what needs to be done so that the human community can take shape in the light of God’s love for all his creatures. Men and women are called to speak to one another as covenant partners, because neither of the two – neither man nor woman – can assume this responsibility alone” (no. 2).
What strikes the eye from this speech is certainly the unique contribution that women can give, first and foremost in society. According to the present Pope, the more women are involved in and contribute to communities, politics, economics and also to the Church herself, the more positive changes will surely occur around us. In an intriguing address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace at noon of June 9, 2017, to the theme ‘The Role of Women in Education Towards Universal Fraternity’, Pope Francis demonstrated how women can actually “speak with love about what needs to be done so that the human community can take shape in the light of God’s love for all his creatures”.
He said that women the more women are involved in and contribute to communities, in political, economical and ecclesial fields, the more positive changes will be brought about. Pope Francis stated: “The growing presence of women in social, economic and political life at the local, national and international level, as well as ecclesial is a beneficial process. Women have full right to insert themselves actively in all realms, and their right is also affirmed and protected through legal instruments where they are revealed as necessary”.
In that powerful speech the Holy Father highlighted the importance of “appreciating woman’s role”. He said that “in today’s complex society, characterized by plurality and globalization, there is need for greater recognition of woman’s capacity to educate to universal fraternity.” Secondly, women are key educators to fraternity. In fact, “women, in as much as educators, have a particular vocation, capable of having new ways of acceptance and mutual esteem be born and grow”. Thirdly, in the field of dialogue, “women, are committed, often more than men, at the level of the ‘dialogue of life’ in the inter-religious ambit, and thus they contribute to a better understanding of the challenges characteristic of a multi-cultural reality”.
While congratulating to every woman a happy woman’s day, I pray that each woman keep realizing the essential contribution she alone can offer to dialogue, particularly through her God-given capacity of listening, receiving and opening herself generously to others.