The Holy See has said that recognising and valuing the “feminine genius” is essential for sustainable peace and security.

– On gender equality, “numbers alone are not enough”: Vatican representative to OSCE

This October 27-28 the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk, took part in the Third OSCE Gender Equality Review Conference jointly organised by the Albanian chairmanship of the OSCE and the OSCE Secretariat and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

In a statement to the Conference, Urbańczyk said the Holy See supports the pursuit of “full and true equality” between men and women “as a fundamental aspect of a just and democratic society based on the rule of law” and as that goal was expressed in the 2004 OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality.

“The Holy See is convinced that the first step towards the advancement of equality between women and men is the recognition of the importance of women’s participation and engagement in all aspects of cultural, social, political, and economic life, thus offering a true vision of women’s inherent and inalienable dignity and aspirations”, Urbańczyk explained.

“A true and authentic equality between women and men should, therefore, focus on concrete, practical, everyday steps that recognize the contribution of women by ensuring equal pay for equal work, equal access to resources, to capital and to technology, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements and in the sharing of family responsibilities, and the recognition of equal rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democratic State”, the Vatican diplomat continued.

Urbańczyk described that “essential vision” of gender equality as being “of fundamental importance”, but he insisted that “equality between men and women cannot be reduced to the sole pursuit of statistics or percentages”.

“While a greater amount of women in parliaments, in the workforce and in areas of responsibility often reflects greater inclusiveness, numbers alone are not enough”, the Holy See representative continued.

Quoting from Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia (173), Urbańczyk stressed that “[w]omen need to be valued for all their capacities which stem from their inalienable human dignity as women, and from their ‘feminine genius, which is essential to society'”.

“It is by recognizing and valuing women’s specificity, richness, and moral and spiritual strength that sustainable peace and security can be consolidated”, Urbańczyk highlighted.

Quoting from Pope John Paul II’s message for the 1995 World Day of Peace, he added that “[w]hen women are able to share fully their gifts, ‘the very way in which society understands and organizes itself is improved, and comes to reflect in a better way the substantial unity of the human family'”.

– Women equal but different to men, OSCE gender equality recommendations not binding upon participating States

Though the Vatican OSCE representative said that the Holy See was in favour of gender equality, he warned against equating men and women without recognising their differences.

Recalling that Pope Francis has taught that “the removal of difference [between men and women] in fact creates a problem, not a solution”, Urbańczyk cautioned that glossing over the differences between the sexes “would only impoverish women and all of society, by deforming or losing the unique richness and inherent value of women”.

“Equality is not exclusive of nor contradictory to complementarity, which means that every woman and every man, as persons, may bring their personal contribution, talents, gifts and charisma”, the Vatican diplomat claimed.

On that point, the Holy See representative echoed Pope Francis’ 2014 address to participants in an international colloquium on the complementarity between man and woman, in which the pontiff called gender complementarity “a great treasure”, and “not only an asset” but also “a thing of beauty”.

Urbańczyk concluded his address by insisting that the OSCE use “precise terminology and agreed language” when referring to gender issues, as a way of “avoiding interpretations far from the ordinary and generally accepted usage of the words and from the object and purpose of the relevant commitments”.

He also recalled that the recommendations and conclusions of OSCE gender equality conferences “are not consensually agreed commitments and, as such, are not binding upon participating States”.

That being said, Urbańczyk closed his statement with another appeal to appreciate the “uniqueness” of women and with another quote from Pope Francis: “a world where women are marginalized is a barren world because women not only give life but they also transmit the ability to see beyond ourselves […] to see the world with different eyes”.

More on Novena on the Church and gender equality:

Female theologian issues ultimatum: “Women must not continue to be silenced, made invisible and marginalised in the Church”

Catholic journalist excoriates misogynistic Church: “Equality does not mean praising women to the skies. It means doing justice to them on earth”

Female theologian blasts bishops opposed to women’s ordination: “Venture out into the world and learn to question your rigidity”

“Cold comfort”: Female priest accuses Pope of paying only lip service to women’s equality in Catholicism


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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.