Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned violence and prejudice against women and said equal pay and opportunities could help create a more peaceful world, while a new survey of Catholic women showed many felt the Church discriminated against them.
In the preface to a book published by the Vatican News website on International Women’s Day, Francis emphasized the differences between men and women, but called for “equality in diversity” on “a playing field open to all players.”
“I like to think that if women could enjoy full equality of opportunity, they could contribute substantially to the necessary change towards a world of peace, inclusion, solidarity and integral sustainability,” the Holy Father said.
Francis has condemned discrimination against women in the past but, like his predecessors, has ruled out the female priesthood. The Catholic Church teaches that only men can be priests because Jesus chose men as his apostles.
A survey released Wednesday by Newcastle University, Australia, revealed that nearly 80% of the more than 17,000 Catholic women surveyed in 104 countries said women should be included in all levels of Church leadership.
The poll, which was presented at the Vatican, showed that two-thirds of respondents, or 68%, strongly agreed or agreed that women should be able to be ordained priests.
There was majority support for the female priesthood in all 104 countries surveyed, except Poland and South Africa.
In the preface to the book entitled: More Female Leadership for a Better World, the Supreme Pontiff extolled the differences between men and women.
“They are more attentive to the protection of the environment, their gaze is not directed to the past but to the future,” he said.
“Women know that they give birth with pain to achieve a great joy: to give life and open vast and new horizons. That’s why women want peace, always.”
He said women need to get paid the same as men for equal roles and described the existing pay gap as “a grave injustice.”
The pope condemned the “plague” of violence against women, recalling a speech he gave in 2021 when he called it an “open wound fruit of a patriarchal and macho culture of oppression.”
Francis has appointed several women to leadership positions since becoming pope, saying last year that “every time a woman is given a position (of responsibility) at the Vatican, things get better.”