God entrusts the human being to the woman”
Study seminar organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Palazzo San Calisto, Vatican City, 10 - 12 October 2013.

“God entrusts the human being to the woman” (cf. MD, 30): a robust and meaningful affirmation, from the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem written by Blessed John Paul II, published on 15 August 1998, which has perhaps been neither “grasped” nor studied enough in the recent years. The phrase was chosen as the title for this seminar organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which is due to take place in Rome, 10-12 October 2013.

In the 25th anniversary of the apostolic letter’s publication on the dignity and vocation of women, the Pontifical Council for the Laity would like to propose a renewed reflection upon this important document. The Mulieris Dignitatem was written straight after the Synod on the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and the world, celebrated in 1987. It responded to a request, which arose out of the Synod itself, which called for a consideration of the anthropological and theological foundations of the feminine condition as an essential foundation for every novelty to occur in the life of the Church. The post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici, published a little after the Mulieris Dignitatem, contains the warning: “Above all the acknowledgment in theory of the active and responsible presence of woman in the Church must be realized in practice. … the revised Code of Canon Law contains many provisions on the participation of women in the life and mission of the Church: they are provisions that must be more commonly known and, according to the diverse sensibilities of culture and opportuneness in a pastoral situation, be realized with greater timeliness and determination.” (ChL, 51).

Such an urgency is felt even more keenly today, of putting into practice the auspices of the Synod, in order to have a more active participation of the woman in the life and mission of the Church: to put the reflections of these documents into effect will offer important indications as to which direction should be taken next, thus responding in turn to the call of Pope Francis.

The title phrase of the seminar is read within in its own context, in order to grasp fully the sense of it: “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman” wrote Blessed John Paul II, “is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way - precisely by reason of their femininity - and this in a particular way determines their vocation.” (MD, 30).

In the last 25 years the presence and participation of women in the social, economic, cultural and political spheres has gradually increased. At the same time, however, we have assisted in the growth of a grave, worldwide, anthropological crisis exposed by Pope Benedict XVI. He explained how the men of our time suffer from a “strange disgust of themselves” that manifests itself in the multiple expressions of uneasiness that are in plain sight for all to see.

During Holy Mass, at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis called everybody, men and women, to “be ‘custodians’ of the created, of the design of God written into nature; to be custodians of each other and of the environment” (Homily at the Holy Mass for the beginning of the Petrine Ministry, 19 March 2013). The custodian of the human, far from being an externally imposed weight, is in reality an occasion for personal realisation when it is assumed in the freedom of love. Furthermore, in various recent interventions, Pope Francis has emphasised that fecundity is an essential component of the personal realization of everyone, men and women; fecundity is achieved through that “sincere gift of self” (GS 24) that is the vocation of every human person, lived nevertheless, in ways particular to both male and female. Unfortunately, some ideologies have lost sight of the truth and the richness of the fecundity pertaining to woman; richness that, nevertheless, is lived joyously by many women in different states of life and in different geographical and social contexts.

In the seminar promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the participants include experts and representatives of associations and movements coming from 25 countries, 39 associations and ecclesial movements, and 22 different professional areas: theologians, philosophers, educators, university lecturers, journalists, historians, medics, lawyers, artists, engineers etc. It is an extremely varied group of men and women who will enter into dialogue together, “in the Church as the Church”, to discuss new challenges and work on adequate replies stemming from the dignity and vocation given by God to every woman and every man.

The panel structure is as such:

Thursday 10 October

  • Conference: “God entrusts the human being to the woman” (MD, 30): a great intuition by John Paul II, Mons. Livio Melina (Italy, President of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the study of Marriage and Family).

  • Conference: Historical evolutions of the “image” of woman: has the woman of today renounced her role? Prof. Helen Alvaré (U.S.A., Lecturer of Law at George Mason School of Law; co-creator of Women Speak for Themselves in defence of religious freedom).

  • Panel: The many faces of todays cultural crisis: new challenges and their relation to woman’s vocation

What evaluation should be made of the sexual revolution forty years later? Prof. Lucetta Scaraffia (Italy, Lecturer in Contemporary History at La Sapienza University, Rome; collaborator with the Osservatore Romano and coordinator of Woman, Church, World).

The identity crisis of man and woman (ideology of gender). Prof. Ángela Aparisi (Spain, Lecturer in Philosophy of Law at the University of Navarra; published different studies on the ideology of gender).

Woman and the culture of death: abortion, contraception, end life, Dr. Ligaya Acosta (Philippines, Regional Director for Asia and Oceania at Human Life International)

Understanding the educative emergency, Prof. Franco Nembrini (Italy, Rector of the Scholastic Centre La Traccia)

When law is allied with ethical subjectivism, Prof. Gabriella Gambino (Italy, Researcher in Philosophy of Law at Tor Vegata Univeristy, Rome; lecturer in Bioethics and Philosophy of Law at different university centres).

Friday 11 October

  • Conference: The role of woman in the construction of a civilization of love in the light of the Magisterium, Dr. Jocelyne Khoueiry (Lebanon, Co-founder of the Catholic feminine movement “La Libanaise-Femme du 31 Mai” and of the John Paul II Centre of Social and Cultural Services).

  • Panel: Principles of the protection of humanum

Human nature and identity: concepts to recuperate? Prof. Don Gilfredo Marengo (Italy, Lecturer in Theological Anthropology at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the study of Marriage and Family).

Sexual difference and the concept of person, Prof.ssa Giorgia Salatiello (Italy, Professor of Philosophy at the Gregorian Pontifical Institute).

How does one propose principal questions of ethics in a liquid society? Prof. Oana Gotia (Romania, Professor in Special Moral Theology at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the study of Marriage and Family).

  • Panel: Proposals for a new civilization of love

The Christian vision of sexuality, Dr. Vicki Thorn (USA, Founder of the Rachel Project that deals with the healing of post-abortion wounds and the formation of youth on topics of sexuality and affectivity).

Mature masculine and Feminine identities, Dr. Costanza Miriano (Italy, Journalist for RAI; writer of books and a blog; mother).

Recovering the values of maternity, Dr Marisa Lucarini (Italy, Assistant Commercialist; mother).

To educate and live life as a gift of self, Dr. Virginia Parodi (Argentina, Official at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; wide experience in the field of youth formation).

For a legal safeguarding of life and family, Dr Jane Wathuta (Kenya, Doctoral student in Bioethics, Human Rights and Public Health at the Biomedical Campus of Rome).

The participants will receive a special audience with Pope Francis on Saturday morning, 12 October.

For more information: Stefano De Pasquale Ceratti

Book Reviews

© Copyright 2011-2015  Pontifical Council for the Laity | Site Map | Links | Contact us


On 1 September 2016 the

Pontifical Council for the Laity
ceased its activities.
Its responsibilities and duties
have been taken over by the
Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.