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Pressing for Catholic decade for women

Special to the National Catholic Reporter
Harare, Zimbabwe

Some 40 Catholic women think that their church ought to commence a Decade of the Catholic Church in Solidarity with Women now that the Ecumenical Decade, launched by the World Council of Churches in 1988, has ended.

The Catholics -- many of them nuns -- were among the 1,000 women and 30 men who attended the November 27-30 festival celebrating and closing the Ecumenical Decade (1988-98).

The goals of the decade included an end to violence against women, the full participation of women in the life of the church, working toward their economic improvement and removing the specters of racism, xenophobia and sexism.

The 40 journeyed here from 24 nations and decided they wanted to carry on the agenda and the unfinished work of the Ecumenical Decade.

Following the festival, they signed a statement acknowledging that they had seen how World Council of Churches member churches “have been enriched by the evident emergence of the gifts of women.”

Signers of the statement who spoke to NCR said they were not pushing for women’s ordination, but rather that women’s leadership abilities be more respected and that the church give greater regard to their presence and their experiences.

They asked the church to encourage the setting of local, national and international goals and to devise methods of assessing these objectives over the first decade of the new millennium. The women urged the Catholic church to commit the necessary financial and other support to the project.

Five of the women met briefly Dec. 11 with Bishop Mario Conti of Aberdeen, Scotland, who headed the Vatican’s 23-person delegation to the World Council assembly. Conti also co-moderates the World Council-Roman Catholic Joint Working Group, which has acknowledged that “the churches have not owned the Ecumenical Decade, nor have they provided the support necessary for it to become a transforming promise to the churches together.”

Conti instructed the women to write to Cardinal Edmund Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. He said he doubted that any funds for the initiative would be forthcoming.

National Catholic Reporter, December 25, 1998