The Pontifical Council for the Laity, through its Women’s Section, is attentive to all that pertains to women in the world. The Section strives to advance ideas and activities that can contribute to the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and in society. We work in collaboration with associations, movements, non-governmental organisations and other dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Together with an ad hoc group of experts, the women’s section is also involved in a study on the man-woman relationship under the headings of specific identity, reciprocal interaction and mutual complementarity.
The magisterium of the Church has provided important points of reference on the subject of women over the past number of years. These come from Christian anthropology and provide a vast source of material for studies that take place in the dicastery. One of the key points is the declaration that “It is only through the duality of the ‘masculine’ and the ‘feminine’ that the ‘human’ finds full realization. [...] Woman and man are marked neither by a static and undifferentiated equality nor by an irreconcilable and inexorably conflictual difference. Their most natural relationship, which corresponds to the plan of God, is the ‘unity of the two’, a relational ‘uni-duality’, which enables each to experience their interpersonal and reciprocal relationship as a gift which enriches and which confers responsibility” (JOHN PAUL II, Letter to Women, 7; 8).
Equality in shared dignity does not imply the generic equivalence of women and men. On the contrary, women have to understand and experience the beauty and dignity of their femininity. Furthermore, in our times of accelerated change when there is an increase in anthropological confusion, we can see the need to study further the meaning of feminine identity and vocation. We need to do this in the light of “the Creator’s decision that the human being should always and only exist as a woman or a man” (IDEM, Mulieris Dignitatem, 1). As we are “faced with cultural and political trends that seek to eliminate, or at least cloud and confuse, the sexual differences inscribed in human nature, considering them a cultural construct” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the participants at the International Congress on “Women and men, the humanum in its entirety” on the 20th anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, 9 February 2008), we see that this is an appropriate time to undertake further studies in the area of the mutual complementarity of men and women and in how it is seen in the Church, society and family.
The “feminine genius” has been present in the Church since the beginning, and great numbers of women have left behind an enduring and beneficial legacy as they strove to build the Church up from within. Throughout the ages and in all societies, they have contributed with their specifically feminine qualities. Our changing times are in need of women who are “imbued with a spirit of the Gospel” (JOHN PAUL II, Mulieris Dignitatem, 1) who can serve with fidelity and contribute in the way that only they can. If women “imbued with the spirit of the Gospel” are to take up their place in society and in the Church as they should, then there is a need to foster the spiritual and intellectual education of lay people, particularly of women. This will prepare them to serve the Church as Jesus asks them. The ideal role-model of femininity is Mary the Mother of God, and there have been so many holy women who have stood out and played an important role at decisive moments in history.
The women’s section tries to support the task of education of lay women. It does so by means of a network using the internet, and it is steadily growing. An online documents library has been building up over the years that deals with the subject of womanhood. New materials are added every two months using an increasingly wide pool of contributors. The library classifies articles according to four headings: theology, philosophy, Bible and culture and society. We firmly believe that the more we are connected, the easier it will be to work together and join forces to carry out the task of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of our times.