Pope Francis highlights the need for more women theologians in remarks to members of the International Theological Commission on Thursday, and calls on the Commission to propose “an evangelizing theology, which promotes dialogue with the world of culture.”
By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis highlighted the feminine dimension of the Church on Thursday, emphasizing the need for women’s perspective in theology. “Women have a different capacity for theological reflection than we men do,” the Pope said.
His extemporaneous remarks came during an audience with members of the International Theological Commission (ITC), which, as the Pope noted, is composed primarily of men.
The Church is woman
“The Church is woman,” he said, continuing his reflection. “And if we do not understand what a woman is or what a woman’s theology is, we will never understand what the Church is.” He described the “masculinizing” of the Church as a “great sin,” which has yet to be resolved.
The Pope appealed to a distinction proposed by Jesuit theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who described a “Petrine” or ministerial principle, and a “Marian” or mystical principle. “The Marian is more important than the Petrine,” Pope Francis said, “because there is the bride Church, the woman Church, without being masculine.”
This should lead not only to more women represented in the ITC, but also to greater reflection on the Church as woman and as bride. “This is a task I ask of you, please. ‘Demasculinize’ the Church.”
An evangelizing theology
In his prepared remarks, which were distributed to those present, Pope Francis said, “Today we are called to dedicate ourselves with all the energy of our hearts and minds to ‘a missionary conversion of the Church’.” This, he said, is a response “to Jesus’ call to evangelize, which the Second Vatican Council made its own and which still guides our ecclesial journey.”
He added that the ITC is called to take the lead, in a qualified way, in finding “a way of thinking” that knows how to share the truth about God convincingly and does so by proposing “an evangelizing theology that promotes dialogue with the world of culture.” He added that this must be done in harmony with the people of God, “with a privileged place for the poor and the simple,” but also in prayer and adoration before God.”
Anniversary of the Council of Nicea
The Pope then noted the Commission’s work on anthropological and ecological questions, while focusing especially on their “updated and incisive reflection on the permanent relevance of the Trinitarian and Christological faith confessed by Nicea,” which is being undertaken in preparation for the 1700th anniversary of the first Ecumenical Council.
Pope Francis highlighted the spiritual, synodal, and ecumenical significance of the Council of Nicea. Theologians, he said, are called “to spread new and surprising gleams of Christ’s eternal light in the house of the Church and in the darkness of the world.”
Nicea and synodality
The Pope insisted that synodality “is the way to translate into attitudes of communion and processes of communion the Trinitarian dynamic with which God, through Christ and in the breath of the Holy Spirit, comes to humanity,” while theologians have the responsibility “of unleashing the richness of this wonderful ‘humanizing energy’.”
Toward a common celebration of Easter
Finally, the Holy Father recalled the ecumenical significance of the anniversary, noting that all “disciples of Jesus” are united in professing the Creed proclaimed at Nicea.
He noted that in 2025, the year of the anniversary, all Christians will celebrate Easter on the same date, saying, “How beautiful it would be if it marked the concrete start of an always common celebration of Easter!”
He invited those present to “carry this dream in our hearts, and invoke the creativity of the Spirit, so that the light of the Gospel and of communion may shine more brightly.”