Twenty five years after the publication of the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem by Blessed John Paul II, the Pontifical Council for the Laity wishes to reflect again on this document. A quotation from this letter is the theme of the seminar: God entrusts the human being to a woman” (cf. MD,30). It is scheduled to take place in Rome on 10 and 11 October 2013.
This quotation comes immediately before the conclusion of the last part of the document, numbers 28 to 30, entitled “The greatest of these is love”. Here it seems that the pope is summing up his thoughts as a “meditation” (cf. MD, 1) and is clarifying some points regarding the dignity and vocation of women.
The pope started out by briefly referring to the changes that had been taking place in previous years for women. Then he speaks of what remains the same in the midst of these changes, and what is founded on Christ: the same today, yesterday and always. He presents the concept of the order of love which helps to define what is specific about femininity. He explains that “the order of love belongs to the intimate life of God himself, the life of the Trinity” (MD, 29). This love is communicated to creatures. Men and women are created beings that have been placed by God in this order of love. To have been created as persons means to have the ontological requirement of love. Only a person can love and be loved. In an order like this, a special kind of "prophetism" belongs to women in their femininity (cf. MD, 29), because it is they who receive love in order to give love. This is true beyond the specific relationship of marriage. It is a universal characteristic that can help us to understand the specific nature of womanhood.
With this background of the specific role of women in the order of love and a reflection on the biblical paradigm of women, John Paul II comes to this important conclusion: “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way – precisely by reason of their femininity – and this in a particular way determines their vocation” (MD, 30).
This quotation will be the point of departure for the study being proposed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity to those invited to the seminar. Twenty five years after the publication of Mulieris Dignitatem, the presence and participation of women in social, economic, cultural and political life has been increasing all over the world. At the same time there is a growing anthropological crisis in the world which the pope could identify back in 1988. With the passing of the years we can see more “self hatred” among our contemporaries, an expression used by Benedict XVI. It is being seen in so many ways, for example, in the crisis of male and female identity, the growth in gender theory, the widespread culture of death (abortion, euthanasia, the contraceptive mentality), the deterioration in human relations that resulted from the sexual revolution, the education emergency, and the law which is becoming allied to moral subjectivism.
Starting with a study of Blessed John Paul II’s intuition on number 30 of Mulieris Dignitatem, the seminar will look at the changes throughout history in how women have been perceived. They will ask if these changes have led women to renounce their role, and they will study the many aspects that have arisen as a result of the present cultural crisis. Finally, they will look at the role of women in building a civilisation of love, and they will try to identify some principles that are needed to safeguard the humanum. They will present some proposals for a new civilisation of love. Ample time will be given during the seminar for discussion and exchange of ideas.
We hope that the seminar can respond to the invitation Pope Francis made at the start of his pontificate to all men and women to be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment” (Homily at the Mass for the inauguration of the pontificate, 19 March 2013). He was asking us not to allow signs of destruction and death to be in the world. The seminar will be a time of deep reflection on the specific role of women in safeguarding the humanum and, with God’s help, will allow each one to be even more committed to giving their contribution in the various areas discussed.