By: Mada Jurado | NOVENA
This International Women’s Day, thousands of Catholic women across the world are taking action, united in their common struggle for equality in their Church that has mostly been left unheard and unrecognised by Catholic hierarchy.
But this week, the scales will tip to their favor, as women realize the time for asking is over, they are taking on the responsibility for the future of their Church – with or without permission.
In more than 27 places globally, Catholic women will gather in front of their churches on International Women’s Day and call for equal rights and full participation of women in the Catholic Church.
With joint prayers, rallies and art actions, they will celebrate and demand for a gender-equitable church.
This global action is the beginning of a year long process of pilgrimage undertaken by the Catholic Women’s Council (CWC).
The CWC is an umbrella group that brings together women’s associations, initiatives, women religious orders, church bodies and theologians, who are no longer waiting for current Church leaders to make significant changes.
They are empowering themselves to take responsibility and lead by working together towards one vision – a Church of equal sisters and brothers.
“Gender equality is a global issue. All over the world there are women and men who see dignity and equality of every human being as a basic lesson of Christianity, and they cannot accept anymore that this lesson is not put into practice in the Church structures and its everyday life. Their unity among differences, their empowerment and dedication show that change is already happening,” says Zuzanna Flisowska, General Manager of Voices of Faith.
International Women’s Day events are planned in Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Germany, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Kenya, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States by local groups all coming together around the same theme of ‘Dignity and Equality’ and ‘We Are The Change’.
German speaking countries will come together in 9 different locations on Sunday 8th March, with many pilgrimaging together to specific church locations.
One of the participating groups is Maria 2.0, whose “church strike” around Germany has garnered international media coverage.
“The Church is being hypocritical when it talks of dignity, until leaders have realised it in equal rights for half their members, they must remove dignity from all church documents and all sermons. If the Catholic Church does not manage to eliminate injustice in her own house, she will not be sustainable”, says Maria Mesrian, of Maria 2.0 in Cologne.
Leaders in the Philippines include Sister Mary John Manazan, an 83-year-old Benedictine that has paved the way for feminist discourse in the Philippines.
“I have fought for equality all my life, I do not understand how women are deemed less capable than men of representing Christ as his ministers. Uniting local groups is so important under this one message of dignity and equality as women must realise they have the power to change things, not the hierarchy,” says Sister Mary.
For African voices, reform is difficult and can lead to ostracization in local communities. Sister Mumbi Kigutha and Sister Leondia Katunge have worked for female empowerment of their communities for decades.
“Who shall hold the bishops accountable? Hasn’t the sex abuse scandal taught us that no man should be imbued with too much power and autonomy? The church is shored up by women all over the world, and it is these women that we must listen to, in order to heal our beloved church. It is unwise to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results,” says Sister Mumbi.
On Sunday 1st March in Spain, thousands attended manifestations in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Zaragoza called ‘La Revuelta de Mujeres en la Iglesia’ or “The Revolt of Women in the Church.”
These Spanish groups have come together to demand profound ecclesial reform from the perspective of women.
Theologian Pepa Torres said at their local press conference last week “A profound ecclesial renewal will put an end to the discrimination suffered by women in the Church, and that will go so far as to make it a community of equals. Just as Jesus wanted.”
These local actions express the extraordinary unity and solidarity among Catholic women around the world and show that women’s rights must also be valid in the Roman Catholic Church if she wants to be sustainable.