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Friday, June 9, 2017

Words of encouragement for Inter-religious Dialogue

At 11:45am this morning, in the Consistory Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.  The theme of this encounter is The role of women in education toward universal fraternity.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to members of the
Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue

Your Eminences,
Dear brother Bishops,
brothers and sisters,

I welcome you with joy and I thank Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran for the greeting he has offered me in your name.  We are meeting at the conclusion of your Plenary Assembly, during which you discussed the Role of women in education toward universal fraternity.  There is certainly much enriching dialogue on this theme, which is of primary importance for the journey of all humanity toward fraternity and peace, a journey that is not by any means simple or linear, but marked by difficulty and obstacles.

Unfortunately, we see how today the figure of women as educators about universal fraternity is obscured and often unrecognizable, because of the many evils that affect this world and which, in particular, affect women in their dignity and their roles.  Women, and even children, are in fact among the most frequent victims of blind violence.  Where hatred and violence prevail, they tear at the fabric of families and society, preventing women from accomplishing their mission as educators, in communion of intent and action with all of mankind, in a serene and effective manner.

Reflecting on the theme that you are facing, I wish to focus in particular on three aspects: validating the role of women, education in fraternity and dialogue.

Validating the role of women
In today's complex society, characterized by plurality and globalization, there is a need for greater recognition of the ability of women to teach others about universal fraternity.  When women have the opportunity to fully convey their gifts to the whole community, the way in which society is understood and organized is positively transformed by better reflecting upon the substantial unity of the human family.  Here is the most important premise for the consolidation of authentic fraternity.  It is therefore a beneficial process to increase the presence of women in social, economic and political life at local, national and international levels, as well as the life of the Church.  Women have full rights to be actively involved in all aspects, and in this right must also be asserted and protected by legal means wherever necessary.

It is a matter of expanding the space to provide a more inclusive female presence.  There are many, many women who, through their dedication and conscience, sometimes even with heroic courage, have used and continue to use the fruit of their genius, a precious feature of theirs, in varied, specific and qualified skills coupled with their real experience of being mothers and teachers.

Education in fraternity
As educators, women have a particular vocation, for they are capable of creating and nurturing ways of mutual acceptance and esteem.  The female figure has always been at the centre of education in families, a role not exclusively reserved to mothers.  Women's contributions to the field of education are invaluable, and education involves a wealth of implications for women, for their way of being, for their relationships and for their way of dealing with human life as well as life in general.

Ultimately, everyone - men and women - are called to contribute to furthering education toward universal fraternity which is then, in the final analysis, education toward peace meant to complement each person's various sensitivities and roles.  In this way, women, who are intimately connected to the ministry of life, can do much to promote the spirit of fraternity, with their care for the preservation of life and with their conviction that love is the only strength that can make the world habitable for all people.

In effect, women sometimes remain the only ones to accompany others, above all those who are weak within families and in society, victims of conflict and those who must face the challenges of everyday life.  Thanks to their contributions, teaching others about fraternity - which by its very nature is inclusive and creates ties - will be able to survive the throw-away culture.

It is evident, the extent to which education toward universal fraternity, which also implies learning how to establish ties of friendship and respect, is important in the field of inter-religious dialogue.  Women are often engaged at the level of dialogue for life in the world of inter-religious dialogue and thus they contribute to a better understanding of the challenges characteristic of multicultural realities.  But women can also be involved in exchanges at the religious level, as well as exchanges at the level of theological dialogue.  Many women are well prepared to participate in encounters that involve inter-religious dialogue at the highest levels and not only on behalf of Catholics.  This means that the contribution of women should not be confined merely to discussions among women or to encounters with women only. Dialogue is a journey that women and men should undertake together.  Today, more than ever before, it is necessary that women be present.

Women, who possess particular characteristics, can offer important contributions to dialogue through their capacity for listening, for welcoming and for their openness toward others.

I thank you all, members, consultors and collaborators involved with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue: you provide a precious service.  I hope that you will continue to weave the delicate canvas of dialogue with all people who seek after God and with men of good will.  I invoke upon you the abundance of the Lord's blessings, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.
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