“It is not for anyone to deny us vocations just because we are women”, German laywomen have warned bishops.
– Catholic Women’s Association celebrates first anniversary of historic call for women priests
This month marks the first anniversary of the historic call of the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (KFD) that women be admitted to the priesthood.
Historic, because the resolution that passed unanimously in the 2019 KFD Federal Assembly was the first time the association voted in favour of women priests, having until then supported only the ordination of women to the diaconate.
In a press release June 15 to mark the anniversary, KFD federal president Mechthild Heil looked back at the milestone vote by which the association passed the position paper “Equal and authorised: Access of women to all services and offices in the Church”, and celebrated the progress the group has made in the first year of a multi-year offensive for the rights of women in the Church, under the slogan: “Woman, what are you waiting for?”
– 130,000 signatures for a gender-equal Church, one of the highlights
Perhaps the most visible sign of the KFD’s work for Catholic women’s rights this past year has been the now ubiquitous purple cross, which Heil said “is slowly becoming the epitome of the demand for a gender-equal Church”.
On social media the purple cross is being employed in more and more posts “by people who use it to express their solidarity and their own desire for a Church that recognises women and men equally with their vocations. This makes us very happy and gives us strength”, Heil rejoiced.
Another sign of the KFD’s progress were the more than 130,000 signatures for a gender-equal Church the association began collecting for the autumn plenary assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference in September 2019, and which the group finally handed over to the presidency of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process together with its sister association, the German Catholic Women’s Association (KDFB), in March this year.
– “We women have been given the same dignity by God”
But as necessary as those signatures were, no other symbol for women’s rights in Catholicism has captured the imagination of both believers and wider society perhaps as much as the purple cross.
The KFD deliberately chose the symbol in solidarity with the first European Christian, Lydia, whom the New Testament book of Acts describes as Paul’s first convert in Philippi and “a dealer in purple cloth” – a symbol of high status – who ran her own home and gave the male apostles hospitality.
By taking on the colour purple for their gender justice campaign, “we are taking up the dignity for which this colour stands among high officials in the Catholic Church and we want to express: We have been given the same dignity by God, so it is not for anyone to deny us vocations and eligibilities just because we are women”, Heil explained.
– “We women not only want to serve the Church, but also to take on responsibility and power”
According to KFD president Heil, Catholic women’s aptitude for ministry was amply displayed in the worst weeks of the coronavirus crisis, when many association members organised equality campaigns online, live-streamed prayer services, hung prayers on church doors and invited Catholics to join in prayer chains.
Not only that, but women’s vocations to the priesthood were also convincingly demonstrated in a country-wide women’s preaching day May 17, according to Heil, when twelve KFD members gave sermons in parishes and Church media around Germany – including in Eucharistic celebrations – in memory of the apostle Junia.
In women’s work in parishes and in wider society during the COVID-19 crisis, “there is no clearer proof that women are systemically relevant for the Church and that they not only sustain spiritual life but also play a decisive role in it”, affirmed Heil, adding that the KFD’s hope is that women’s contributions to the Church “will finally be formally recognised by an ordination as deacons and priests”.
Heil said that the KFD is aware that the continuing impact of the coronavirus is hampering much of the Church’s activity at present, but she insisted that the association remains committed to its conviction that “we women not only want to serve the Church, but also to take on responsibility and power”.
The KFD is making its demands felt on Church leadership especially in the synodal path, where members are insisting that bishops pay proper attention to continuing Church injustices including unresolved cases of sex abuse, the power imbalance between clergy and laity and the ongoing ban on lay preaching.