Synod Intervention (Filomena Hirota)

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Sr. Filomena Hirota, MMB


This synod was convoked to seek a new way of being Church in Asia as we enter the Third Millennium: “new in its approaches, new in its theological expression, new in its methods and new in its understanding of other religions” as Instrumentum Laboris (n.55) indicated. The awakening of women’s consciousness to their dignity as human persons in the past 25 years is one of the most significant “signs of the times” in today’s world. The introduction to the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem indicates that the subject of women’s dignity “has gained exceptional prominence in recent years.” (Mulieris Dignitatem, Introduction)

What has been the response of the Church in Asia to the phenomenon called the “feminization of poverty and work”:

  1. accelerated by the present economic structure,
  2. the prevailing practice of treating women and girl children as commodities, particularly in tourism and sex industries,
  3. the violence on women, both outside and inside their homes,
  4. the subordinate position imposed on women as second-class citizens in family and in society, which has been justified by cultures and religions?

What has been the response of the Church to the growing awareness and movements of women which demand that the fundamental equality and dignity of all women and girl children be respected in thought, attitudes and practices? The following:

  1. The Fourth FABC Plenary Assembly in 1986 stated: “It is not just a human necessity but a Gospel imperative that the feminine half of the world’s population be recognized and their dignity restored.” (May Your Kingdom Come, Final Statement of the Fourth FABC Plenary Assembly, 1986. No.3.3.3)
     
  2.  “With half of humanity dehumanized, we become deeply impoverished,” admitted the participants to a consultation organized by the FABC Office of Laity, 1995.
     
  3. The Sixth FABC Plenary Assembly in 1995 was clear in emphasizing the pressing need of the Church’s commitment to eradicate the injustices against women and to bring about just gender relationships: “We cannot effectively promote our Christian vision of full life, unless the Church as a communion of communities will credibly expend its moral and spiritual energies to the conversion of mentalities, the transformation of structures, and the eradication of practices that deny women and the girl child in Asia their God-given dignity” (Christian Discipleship in Asia Today: Service to Life. Final Statement of the Sixth FABC Plenary Assembly, 1995. No.15.2).
     
  4. During BILA (Bishops Institute for Laity and Women) on Women, the bishops grew in greater awareness of the situation of women and the injustice done to them and learned some of the approaches used to reach out to women by Church groups, NGOs and groups of other religious beliefs.

The Church in Asia has a predominantly feminine face. In many countries, women comprise 70-80% of its membership. The presence of women in pastoral ministry, their service to the poor and marginated, their commitment to peace and justice in ecumenical-interreligious relationships, and their solidarity actions in promoting the dignity and equality of all women, men, children have been significant and important.

A new, way, of being Church in Asia calls for a Church in solidarity with the cry of women in a prophetic way. The Church is called to “become a credible sign of the dignity and freedom of women in society and in the world” (Fourth FABC 3.3.6). The Church has to find a concrete way to respond to the Holy Father who asked pardon, in the name of the Church, for the wrongs and insensitivities perpetuated against women in the Church when he said: “May this regret be transformed on the part of the whole Church into a renewed commitment to fidelity to the Gospe1 vision” (Letter to Women, June 29,1995).

In order that this synod would take a valiant step forward, I present the following concrete proposals to be considered by this assembly. They reflect the resolutions and recommendations of the BILA, 95, supported by AMOR (Asian Meeting of Religious), representing the major conferences of women religious of Asia and the Pacific:

  1. The members of the Mother Church are called to be agents of communion, to create wholesome and equal relationships of compassion and care among humankind and with nature.
  2. Theology from women’s perspectives and experiences should be introduced in seminaries and mission formation courses.
  3. It is important, indeed, necessary, for male members of Mother Church to discover and grow in “feminine” insights and attitudes-in imitation of Jesus (Cf. FABC Plenary Assembly 1990, No. 6.4)--so that their service may be fully and genuinely human and Christian in a society where the logic of domination is destroying both human beings and nature.
  4. Future priests should be formed so as to accept women as equal disciples and companions in their evangelization work.
  5. As a concrete sign of recognition of the fundamental equality of all baptized persons, including their dignity and rights, and the Church’s commitment to uphold women as equal partners, it is urgently recommended:
a) that there be a minimum of 30% participation of women in all Church organizations and councils,
b) that in the Church all women, including the religious sisters, be justly compensated for their work,
c) that women be given support and opportunities which will enable them to study theology, and related subjects,
d) that in each diocese, a committee be formed to address injustice, especially against women and children, and to take effective appropriate action, in coordination with other local, national, and international organizations,
e) that all language (which subconsciously profoundly influences our conscious attitudes) of Church-related writings reflect the equality of men and women.

May Mary of the Magnificat accompany us in this journey as we women commit ourselves to Jesus’ mission of love and service in Asia!

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