Pope supports talk about women's role

Pope Benedict XVI has said that it is right to discuss how women can be more involved in church decision-making.

Catholic News Service reports that while insisting women cannot be ordained priests, the Holy Father spoke with the priests of the Diocese of Rome last week, listening to their concerns and responding to their questions.

The following day, the Vatican released a summary of the priests' questions and a transcript of the pope's remarks covering women in the church, youth, family life and a variety of other topics.

Fr Marco Valentini asked the pope why the church does not recognise that women's experience, wisdom and points of view would complement those of the men in decision-making positions.

Pope Benedict said, "Everyone certainly has had this experience" that Father Valentini described of being assisted by women in growing in the faith.

"The church owes a great debt of thanks to women," the pope said.

Women not only have exercised a charismatic function in the church, being prompted by the Holy Spirit to found religious orders, expand charitable projects and develop new forms of piety, he said; they have had "a real and profound participation in the governance of the church."

"How could one imagine the governance of the church without this contribution, which sometimes has been quite visible, like when St. Hildegard criticized the bishops or when St. Brigid and St. Catherine of Siena admonished and obtained the return of the popes to Rome" from Avignon, France, the pope said.

The contribution of women, he said, "always has been a determining factor without which the church could not live."

Pope Benedict said priestly ministry is reserved to men, but "it is right to ask" if it would not be possible "to offer more space, more positions of responsibility to women."

In responding to the questions, the pope frequently admitted he did not understand some of the words the Rome priests used or that he did not have all the answers.

Dealing with several subjects, the pope stressed the importance of individuals recognising they have been created by God, entering into a relationship with God and sharing that relationship with others.

He quoted the Old Testament reading used on 2 March at Mass: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life."

The decline of Christianity in the West, he said, too often is presented falsely as a choice for life.

Pope: It's right to discuss women's role in church decision-making (Catholic News Service 3/3/06)

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6 Mar 2006