Fifty delegates from 45 nations were addressed by President John Agyekum Kufour of Ghana, who described the problem.
Women "have difficulty accessing school education, they are often poor and are subjected to domestic violence, exclusion and genital mutilation," he told the forum held Sept. 1-8.
Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo, spoke about the treatment of women, "which is often contrary to our fundamental Christian belief on the equality of human beings."
John Paul II sent a goodwill message to the participants. It was read by Archbishop Peter Turkson, president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference. In the message, the Holy Father said that the Church is committed to the struggle for gender balance.
The Pope said that the theme of the forum is especially pertinent, at a time when customs and practices, which deprive women of their rights and the respect due to them, are still widespread.
The Holy Father hoped that the forum will be a powerful affirmation of women´s rights and duties in building up the family and taking full part in the development of the Church and society.