Papal appeal on Behalf of Women
Pope John Paul II
Audience with Mrs. Mary
Ann Glendon and Members of the Holy See's Delegation to the Fourth World
Conference on Women, Beijing, China, given August 29, 1995
As you prepare to
leave for Beijing, I am happy to meet you, the Head of the Delegation of the
Holy See to the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the other Members of
Through you, I
extend my best wishes and prayers to the participant nations and
organizations, as well as to the authorities of the host country, the
People's Republic of China.
My wishes are for
the success of this Conference in its aim to guarantee all the women of the
world "equality, development and peace," through full respect for their
equal dignity and for their inalienable human rights, so that they can make
their full contribution to the good of society.
Over the past
months, on various occasions, I have drawn attention to the positions of the
Holy See and to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity, rights
and responsi-bilities of women in today's society: in the family, in
the workplace, in public life. I have drawn inspiration from the life
and witness of great women within the Church throughout the centuries who
have been pioneers within society, as mothers, as workers, as leaders in the
social and political fields, in the caring professions and as thinkers and
General of the United Nations has asked the participating nations at the
Beijing Conference to announce concrete commitments for the improvement of
the condition of women. Having looked at the various needs of women in
today's world, the Holy See wishes to make a specific option regarding such
a commitment: an option in favor of girls and young women.
Therefore, I call
all Catholic caring and educational institutions to adopt a concerted and
priority strategy directed to girls and young women, especially to the
poorest, over the coming years.
It is disheartening
to note that in today's world, the simple fact of being a female, rather
than a male, can reduce the likelihood of being born or of surviving
childhood; it can mean receiving less adequate nutrition and health care,
and it can increase the chance of remaining illiterate and having only
limited access, or none at all, even to primary education.
Investment in the
care and education of girls, as an equal right, is a fundamental key to the
advancement of women. It is for this reason that today:
—I appeal to all the
educational services linked to the Catholic Church to guarantee equal access
for girls, to educate boys to a sense of women's dignity and worth, to
provide additional possibilities for girls who have suffered disadvantage,
and to identify and remedy the reasons which cause girls to drop out of
education at an early stage;
—I appeal to those
institutions which are involved in health care, especially primary health
care, to make improved basic health care and education for girls a hallmark
of their service;
—I appeal to the
Church's charitable and development organizations to give priority in the
allocation of resources and personnel to the special needs of girls;
—I appeal to
Congregations of Religious Sisters, in fidelity to the special charism and
mission given to them by their Founders, to identify and reach out to those
girls and young women who are most on the fringes of society, who have
suffered most, physically and morally, who have the least opportunity.
Their work of healing, caring and educating, and of reaching to the poorest
is needed in every part of the world today;
—I appeal to
Catholic Universities and centres of higher education to ensure that, in the
preparation of future leaders in society, they acquire a special sensitivity
to the concerns of young women;
—I appeal to women
and women's organizations within the Church and active in society to
establish patterns of solidarity so that their leadership and guidance can
be put at the service of girls and young women.
As followers of
Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the least among children, we
cannot be insensitive to the needs of disadvantaged girls, especially those
who are victims of violence and a lack of respect for their dignity.
In the spirit of
those great Christian women who have enlightened the life of the Church
throughout the centuries and who have often called the Church back to her
essential mission and service, I make an appeal to the women of the Church
today to assume new forms of leadership in service and I appeal to all the
institutions of the Church to welcome this contribution of women.
I appeal to all men
in the Church to undergo, where necessary, a change of heart and to
implement, as a demand of their faith, a positive vision of women. I
ask them to become more and more aware of the disadvantages to which women,
and especially girls, have been exposed and to see where the attitude of
men, their lack of sensitivity or lack of responsibility may be at the root.
Once again, through
you, I wish to express my good wishes to all those who have responsibility
for the Beijing Conference and to assure them of my support, as well as that
of the Holy See and the institutions of the Catholic Church, for a renewed
commitment of all to the good of the world's women.
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