As you may know, the pope traditionally announces a special prayer intention for each month of the year.
For October, long observed as “Missionary Month,” Pope Francis has asked everyone to pray “that women be given greater leadership roles in the church.”
And to highlight this intention, he has released a short video, that runs just over a minute in length.
The video is a collaboration with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. It highlights the role of the laity, whom Pope Francis considers “true protagonists in the proclamation of the Gospel.”
Confronting a problem
In the video, the pope asks especially that women be given participation in “areas of responsibility in the Church” because they “tend to be left aside.”
It’s by no means the first time Pope Francis has called attention to the need to integrate women into the decision-making activities of church leadership.
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), he writes:
Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. (104).
Father Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, observes that “since 2013, much has been accomplished, but more needs to be done.”
Father Fornos points out that “by virtue of baptism we are all called to faithfully proclaim and serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to be missionary disciples of the Lord.
“Nonetheless,” he adds, “among the lay faithful, women have been consciously and unconsciously relegated to an inferior level.”
The Jesuit priest noted that Pope Francis, in his post-synodal exhortation Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon), said that “many women, moved by the Holy Spirit, keep the Church alive in many parts of the world with remarkable devotion and deep faith.
“It’s essential that they participate more and more in areas where decisions are made. This requires a profound change of mentality; it requires our conversion, which implies prayer,” the priest said.
In the full text of the prayer intention, the pope prays that “the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church, without falling into forms of clericalism that diminish the lay charism.”
The pope frequently warns of the danger of clericalism to priests, religious and laity alike.