March 10, 2017 — Father Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, joined women and men from around the globe for Voices of Faith, an annual event held in Vatican City to mark International Women’s Day on March 8. He told those gathered that “if we are honest, we acknowledge that the fullness of women's participation in the Church has not yet arrived.”
Father Sosa gave the opening address at the conference, which celebrated and encouraged the need for women's voices to be heard in the Church and in the world. Organized by Voices of Faith, Jesuit Refugee Service and the Fidel Gotz Foundation, the event’s theme was “Stirring the waters: Making the impossible possible.”
Although Pope Francis has voiced his support for broader participation of women's voices in the decisions of the Catholic Church, Fr. Sosa said, “that inclusion, which would bring the gifts of resilience and collaboration even more deeply into the Church, remains stymied on many fronts.”
“No one is more resilient than women building and supporting the Church in the poorest parts of our world,” he said.
Father Sosa said the participation of women is also necessary in positions of leadership, especially in areas of conflict such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Colombia. While it is hard to imagine peace, “can we have the audacity to dream that women and men working together will bring peace to these countries?” he asked.
He praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling her “the most courageous and visionary leader in Europe during this time of phenomenal forced migration.”
Father Sosa also cited the example of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, for bringing peace and reconciliation “to her war-torn country in a way that most men thought would be impossible.”
He concluded by quoting St. Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Father Sosa said it was in that spirit that they gathered “to listen to Voices of Faith, to hear stories of resilience, collaboration, and inclusion. We have more than started. We will not stop.”
The event featured several guest speakers, including Dr. Mireille Twayigira, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and two sisters who are refugees from Homs, Syria, and who work with Jesuit Refugee Service helping others forced to flee violence in their homeland.
Among the presenters at a panel discussion was Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization that sponsored the "Nuns on the Bus" tour in the United States.
Sister Campbell explained it was “essential for women to work for peace” and social justice, particularly for the poor and the marginalized, and she praised Pope Francis' efforts to bring their plight to the forefront of Catholic social teaching.
Sr. Simone Campbell (right) speaks during the Voices of Faith gathering. (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)
“We rejoice in Laudato Si' that (says) care for the earth and care for the poor come from the same reality of exploitation of both and that until we learn to end the exploitation, we will not care for those at the margins, we will not care for our earth. And that is what moves me in such a deep way,” she said.
To read the full text of Fr. Sosa’s address, click here.