Pontiff tells pilgrims ‘God does not choose according to human criteria’ as equality groups hail ideological shift from predecessor
Reuters in Rome
- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 3 April 2013 19.13 BST
Pope Francis has reiterated the “fundamental” importance of women in the Roman Catholic church, a message hailed by women’s groups as a significant shift from his predecessor.
The pontiff, who last month became the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, said women had a special mission in the church as the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, and because they pass on their faith to their children and grandchildren.
“In the church, and in the journey of faith, women have had, and still have, a special role in opening doors to the Lord,” he told thousands of pilgrims at his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square.
In the Bible, women were not recorded as witnesses to Christ’s resurrection because Jewish law at the time did not deem women or children to be reliable witnesses, he added.
“In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role … The evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses,” Francis said. “This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria.”
Benedict XVI, the first pope in six centuries to resign. Photograph: APThe address was the second time the pope had spoken of the role of women as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, an issue of key importance to the Catholic faith. His Easter vigil address on Saturday also made prominent mention of women and urged believers not to fear change.
Marinella Perroni, a leading member of the Association of Italian Women Theologians, which promotes female experts on religion and their visibility in the church, said the pontiff’s words marked a significant shift from the stance of the previous pope, Benedict XVI.
“The fact that the pope acknowledges that the progressive removal of female figures from the tradition of the resurrection … is due to human judgments, distant from those of God … introduces a decidedly new element compared to the previous papacy,” she said.