Vatican Radio is reporting on the panel discussion entitled, “The Family As Agent for Women's Equality and Human Rights: Fulfilling the Promises of Beijing Defending Human Dignity in Reproductive Health” in which Archbishop Auza took part. While it is good to discuss the status of women today, this should not just be about her intellectual and professional development but should include the dignity of woman in the context of marriage, motherhood and family.
“True respect for woman starts with accepting her according to all aspects of her humanity,” the Archbishop said. “It involves creating the conditions for her to live freely and fully. . . When women are given the opportunity to thrive in full appreciation for all their talents and potential, the whole of society benefits.”
This must be done in order to better appreciate the full greatness of woman, he said, “which includes not just the aspects she shares in common with man, but also the unique gifts that pertain to her as woman, like her capacity for motherhood understood not just as a reproductive act, but as a spiritual, educational, affective, nurturing and cultural way of life.”
In many societies today, the unique value and dignity of motherhood is insufficiently defended, which leaves women in the untenable position of having to choose between their intellectual and professional development and their personal growth as wives and mothers.
“Women’s essential contributions to the development of society through their dedication to their family and to raising the next generation is inadequately acknowledged,” he said.
In some places, it’s even disparaged as an antiquated and unwholesome model of feminine life.
“Such criticism does not come from a genuine appreciation of woman in her totality and her true equality, in complementarity and reciprocity, with man. A notion of womanhood that defines equality as ‘identity’ in all things with man impoverishes all of humanity.”
The Archbishop went on to remind participants about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other treaties which affirm that motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and that the “family is the natural and fundamental group of society and is entitled to protection by society and State.
“When this ‘fundamental group unity of society’ is ignored or attacked, we must stand and speak up for it candidly and with respect for all, and courageously advocate for better structures and policies that support working women who desire to have children or who want to dedicate themselves, partially or fully, to the care of their family.”
He went on to remind participants of the many studies of juvenile delinquency and children in distress where a broken family is often discovered to be the blame. This is yet another reason why women’s work within the family is of such vital importance to the future of the world.
“Humanity owes its survival to the choice women make not just to welcome children, but raise them to be virtuous and authentically human . . . Our future is already mirrored in how we, as individuals and as a society, support mothers to raise strong and healthy families.”
In addition to calling upon all to renew their personal devotion and gratitude to their own mothers, he renewed the call of St. John Paul in his 1995 Letter to Women to develop “an effective and intelligent campaign for the promotion of women, concentrating on all areas of women’s life and beginning with a universal recognition of the dignity of women.”
The Archbishop added: “Women cannot flourish when they are the victims of prejudice and discrimination, in particular simply for the fact that they are women.”
The Archbishop concluded by inviting all to use the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration to ponder these issues more deeply “so that together we might ponder and act, towards an ever fuller recognition and appreciation of the irreplaceable and enormous contributions women have to our past, to our present and to our future.”
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