Pope: Women Crucial to Upholding Human Rights

Affirms Power of New Feminism to Transform Culture

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is affirming the unique capacity of women to safeguard life and human rights, and to imbue society with the joy and freedom of Christian values.



The Pope said this in a message sent to participants in an international congress on the theme "Life, Family, Development: The Role of Women in the Promotion of Human Rights," which took place Friday and Saturday in the Vatican.

The conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, with the cooperation of the World Women's Alliance for Life and Family, the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations and other associations.

The Pontiff called the congress "an exemplary response" to Pope John Paul II's "call for a 'new feminism' with the power to transform culture, imbuing it with a decisive respect for life."

Faced to the many ways in which life is compromised, especially in "its most vulnerable stages," he said, there must be a "positive and proactive response."

He continued: "The recognition and appreciation of God's plan for women in the transmission of life and"
"The nurturing of children is a constructive step in this direction," he added.

"Beyond this, and given the distinctive influence of women in society, they must be encouraged to embrace the opportunity to uphold the dignity of life through their involvement in education and their participation in political and civic life."

The Holy Father asserted that "because they have been gifted by the Creator with a unique 'capacity for the other,' women have a crucial part to play in the promotion of human rights, for without their voice the social fabric of society would be weakened."

Free love

He invited the congress participants to "keep in mind a task to which I have drawn attention on several occasions: namely, to correct any misconception that Christianity is simply a collection of commandments and prohibitions."

He explained: "The Gospel is a message of joy which encourages men and women to delight in spousal love; far from stifling it, Christian faith and ethics make it healthy, strong and truly free.

In this light, he added, the Ten Commandments are seen, not as a series of no's but rather as a "great 'yes' to love and to life."

Benedict XVI expressed the hope that the congress will "translate into concrete initiatives that safeguard the indispensable role of the family in the integral development of the human person and of society as a whole."

"The genius of women to mobilize and organize endows them with the skills and motivation to develop ever-expanding networks for sharing experiences and generating new ideas," he affirmed.

The Pope concluded, "May the sphere of your influence continue to grow at regional, national and international levels for the advancement of human rights based on the strong foundation of marriage and family."

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