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Catholic women respond to Pope Francis’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation

Querida Amazonia

The newly formed Catholic Women’s Council (CWC) is an umbrella for Catholic women’s networks around the world campaigning for the full recognition of women’s dignity and equality in the Church. In collaboration with Catholic Women Speak, Voices of Faith and other individuals and groups around the world, CWC has issued a press release expressing our concerns about the representation of women in Pope Francis’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Querida Amazonia. While we recognise that there is great insight and wisdom in the Pope’s poetic vision for the Church in Amazonia, its cultures and its threatened ecological abundance, we deeply regret that once more women are not respected as fully active and equal participants in the struggle for social and environmental justice and in the sacramental life of the Church.


Rome, 13 February 2020

Pope Francis continues exclusion of women

Yesterday the post-synodal exhortation “Querida Amazonia” was published. With great sensitivity, it discussed the problems of poverty, exploitation, cultural colonization, migration and environmental degradation the Amazonia region is currently facing. It encouraged dialogue and appreciation of the unique contribution of the indigenous peoples to the shape of the universal Church.

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What was most striking from the exhortation was that it did not resolve the great dilemmas brought to the Vatican by the preparatory document to the Synod. Instead, it seemed this document served as a further withdrawal from any concrete or bold proposals for reform and to bring about solutions to the pressing issues the Amazonia region are facing. The Pope recommended reading the final document of the Synod but did not settle the questions and open pastoral suggestions contained therein. “Querida Amazonia” proposed no concrete answers or solutions to those questions and requests.

One of the key issues brought to the Vatican by the Amazon Church was the formal recognition of women’s ministry and the possible sacramental support for their dedicated service in the Church. However, instead of concrete new proposals and solutions, there were a mere five paragraphs entitled “The strength and gift of women”.

In this section, the Pope writes about the great work, often indispensable, that women do in the Amazon Church, although that work is not formally recognized. Sadly, this appreciation of the role of women not only perpetuates but reinforces the exclusive tradition of the Church’s designation of a “special” place for women. This tradition describes women in a romanticized and idealized way, suggesting their role is in some way exceptional and set apart from or above and beyond the human norm. As a consequence, the basic form, the subject of Christian anthropology and moral theology, is man, and woman continues to be assigned a “special”, unique task, which does not include the diversity, freedom and charisms reserved for the “basic” version.

The shocking expression of this mentality is outlined in point 101 of the exhortation. The Pope writes that God has shown God’s power and love through two human faces: Christ and Mary. By putting them side by side, he is suggesting that men are similar to the former (Christ) and women to the latter (Mary). This takes away from the teaching that both woman and man are created in the image of God and thus both are, can and should be “Alter Christus”.

The theology behind this phrase is dangerous because it serves to exclude women from access to the full means of salvation. For there is an important ontological difference between Jesus and Mary – even though they are both human, Jesus is also God. The basis of the Christian faith is the conviction that Christ adopted human nature inclusively, not male nature exclusively, and that thanks to this, every human being can be saved and is indeed divinized in Christ.

So, if women are only being compared to the likeness of Mary, then why are women baptized in the name of Christ? Why at baptism are they called to be priestly, prophetic and royal which is a share in Christ’s own priestly, prophetic and royal ministry? How should they understand the term “Imitatio Christi“, which is so fundamental to any Christian spirituality? Above all, on what basis are they to be saved if they do not share the likeness of Christ?

At the same time, there remains, of course, the practical question of what this “characteristic power” is that women in the Church have. The document seems to suggest that it consists in imitating Mary’s motherhood. How should this be understood? How should it be manifested concretely for the community of believers? If we are to take it seriously, is the evaluation and thus validity of our vocations and charisms to be verified only by their similarity to motherhood?

Moreover, the document offers a compelling vision of an inculturated priesthood suffused by the values of pastoral care. But surely, if clericalism is a dysfunctional aspect of the contemporary priesthood and inculturation offers a new and more diverse understanding of what it means to be a priest, then the ordination of women with all the qualities that Pope Francis attributes to them would be the best possible antidote to the clerical mindset?

Most of the document speaks with great respect and maturity about the indigenous people of the Amazon, about their needs and concerns. It encourages the global Church to listen to their opinions and their stories with sensitivity and attention. What is striking is the contrast with which women are treated in the very same document – their voices have so clearly not been heard, they are not equal partners for shaping the future of the Church.

In spite of this clearly excluding message we, women from Catholic Women’s Council will not give up our hopes and vocations. Inspired by the example of our Amazonian sisters in faith, and in imitation of the Syrophoenician woman who persisted despite Jesus’ initial rebuff (Mark 7:25-30), we take responsibility for our Church into our hands. United we will work for the Church that incarnates the equality and dignity we find in the Gospel and that teaches us to follow Christ whoever we are.


AGENDA Forum katholischer Theologinnen e.V.

Catholic Women Speak

Donne per la Chiesa

FrauenKirche Zentralschweiz 

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Future Church

In Bona Fide


KDFB – Bundesverband 

Katholische Frauengemeinschaft Deutschlands (kfd)

Voices of Faith

We Are Church Ireland

Women and the Australian Church (WATAC)

Women’s Ordination Conference


Alicja Baranowska

Catherine Cavanagh

Colette Joyce

Divya Heil, Gemeindereferentin, Katholische Pfarrei St. Christophorus Diezer Land 

Edith O Nuallain

Franziska Driessen-Reding, Präsidentin Synodalrat Zürich

Janet Lash

Jamie L. Manson

Joanna Malecka

Johanna Hart

Katarzyna Sroczyńska

Kate Sotejeff-Wilson

Kathleen McPhillips

Leslye Colvin

Lisa Kötter, Maria 2.0

Maja Szwedzińska

Maria Mesrian, Maria 2.0

Marianne Wanstall

Martha Heizer, Wir sind Kirche Österreich

Olly Dennis

Rocío Figueroa

Sister Hildegard Schreier MC, Ordensfrauen für MenschenWürde

Sister Mumbi Kigutha

Sister Teresa Forcades Vila 

Sheila Pires

Stefanie Matulla, Women’s Ministry

Teresa Gręziak

Tracey McEwan 

Virginia Saldanha

Zuzanna Radzik

Annie Scrimgeour

Maja Szwedzinska

Irene Mangone

Susan A. Ross

Lau Ura Martha

Andrea Hattler Bramson

Carol Burns

Gudrun Ernstbrunner

Dr Thérèse Craine Bertsch

Paula Carthy

Anne Smith

Katie Humphrey

Eileen DiFranco

Catholic women set out on a pilgrimage towards Rome

for dignity and equality in the Catholic Church

Catholic women around the world are uniting to journey together towards Rome on a pilgrimage for the dignity and equality of women in the Church. It will be a time of study and reflection, of prayer and story telling, of walking and talking together in real and virtual pilgrimages as we join our many diferent voices in a single vision of hope, culminating in a gathering in Rome in September 2021.

Please go to this link to find out more.

Towards a deeper, richer understanding of the Catholic tradition

We are creating a space for open dialogue, theological exploration and collaboration among Catholic women in the worldwide Church.

We seek to bring the voices of Roman Catholic women into dialogue with others in the Catholic Church, with those in other churches and religious traditions, and with wider society, in order to participate in a deeper, richer understanding of the Catholic tradition and its relevance for our times

We do not speak with one voice

We believe in the creativity of struggle and acceptance that comes from learning to respect our differences. We regard these as vital aspects of the process of discovery and transformation that brings us together in our faith.

Diversity is a strength

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We resist any attempt to develop a theology of “Woman”.

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Find out more about Catholic Women Speak – who we are and what we do

In October 2018, women from around the world gathered in Rome for events and activities organised by Catholic Women Speak. We recorded interviews with 14 of these women speaking about their vocations, their faith and their cultures and contexts. You can watch the videos here.
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Sheila Pires of Radio Veritas in South Africa interviewed Tina Beattie about Catholic Women Speak while they were together in Rome in October 2018.
Click here to listen to the interview.

We are telling stories, not spreading ideologies … If you self-identify as a Catholic woman, you are welcome in this space. …  We’re a forum for women to say what can we claim, what can we rescue and what must we change to make the  Church we love a more hospitable place for women. … Many of our members campaign on different issues, but Catholic Women Speak is not a campaigning group. It’s a forum, it’s a space, and so any individual woman is welcome there, whatever she campaigns on. … We have women from many different cultures, and we have to be sensitive to each another. Language doesn’t travel effortlessly across cultural boundaries. What one person might feel very comfortable supporting and calling herself, another would not. … Our only campaign is to create a space for women to speak. (Tina Beattie)

Catholic Women Speak – Our New Book

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Read about our time in Rome – see our photos and watch our videos.


A forum for dialogue

The purpose of the forum is to create an informed and honest space for dialogue around issues relevant to the lives of Catholic women in the Church and society.

Comments and contributions that are respectful, courteous and intelligent are welcome here.

Whatever your gender, you are welcome to join our conversation here.

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We are the voices of Roman Catholic women from many different cultures, perspectives and walks of life, united by a shared belief that the Church will benefit from greater inclusion of women’s perspectives and theological insights in the interpretation of doctrine and the development of pastoral practice.
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Men and women, young people and adults, communicate differently. They speak different languages and they act in different ways. Everyone has something to contribute, because they have their life experiences, they look at things from a different standpoint and they have their own concerns, abilities and insights. The unity that we seek is not uniformity, but a “unity in diversity”, or “reconciled diversity”.

 – Pope Francis,  Amoris Laetitiae – The Joy of Love

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We welcome Catholic women to join our Facebook group to dialogue with us, and to support other Catholic women around the world working for a more inclusive Church.

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Catholic Women Speak is now a member of Andante – the European Alliance of Catholic Women’s Organisations. Our CWS community includes members from across Europe, and we are proud to be associated with Catholic women working together for unity, peace and understanding in our richly diverse European cultures.

The following is taken from the Andante website:

Mission statement
To be a Catholic women’s voice and be an actor in building a living Europe that works for the common good and gives a more human face to Europe and the world.
Andante works, through its networks in Europe and through local initiatives, for the just participation of women in society and in the church, and for the common good of all people.
Andante encourages and empowers Catholic women in Europe to reach their full potential, both in society and in spiritual life. It brings strength and inspiration to Catholic women in their daily lives and encourages them to be active in their communities and in the church.
Andante contributes to a Catholic Church in Europe which is welcoming and liberating for all.

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The role of ANDANTE is: to inform, to consult, to coordinate and to represent. It will be a platform for Catholic women to express their ideas, to discuss them frankly and with trust, even if they arrive at different conclusions. “We need to establish common values across our different cultures; we should be able to respond to current and emerging issues in a way that reflects Gospel values and our experience as women. We can offer the female vision of the Common Good.”

In collaboration with Voices of Faith

Catholic Women Speak and Voices of Faith work together to promote the representation and participation of women in the life of the Church. We do this through publications, media promotions, educational activities, networking and social media, and by organising events such as the International Women’s Day conference organised in Rome every year by Voices of Faith, and the symposia in Rome organised by Catholic Women Speak to coincide with Synods of Bishops in 2015 and 2018.

In collaboration with Catherine of Siena College

We work closely with the college which provides an online learning environment for the promotion of higher education in the fields of theology, religion, gender and social justice, intended particularly but not exclusively for women in the global South who would not otherwise have access to university education.

Both the Network and the College are administered by the University of Roehampton in London, under the umbrella of the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Religion, Society and Human Flourishing.

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