For the first time Pope Francis met with representatives of all the women of the World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations (WUCWO).
On Saturday 13 May, the women of theWUCWO met with the Holy Father in a Private Audience, primarily to receive a missionary mandate from the Holy Father on the synodal journey of the Church.
Pope Francis had promised this audience last year, when the Executive Committee of the body had presented the report of the World Women’s Observatory (WWO) on "the impact of Covid-19 on women in Latin America and the Caribbean". On that occasion, Pope Francis had encouraged WUCWO to advance its mission, particularly on the African continent.
On 13 May, the Holy Father thanking all the women who are part of WUCWO, spoke of the importance of women for peace in the world, in particular he said that "And if we want to know what humanity is without woman, what man is without woman, we have it in the first page of the Bible: loneliness. Man without woman is alone. Humanity without woman is alone. A culture without women is lonely (...)”.
The President General of WUCWO, Maria Lia Zervino, declared during her address to the Holy Father: "Today is an historic day for the women of WUCWO and we would like to sing the Magnificat with Mary. Magnificat, for the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us by His pontificate, in which women are exhorted to be apostles like Mary Magdalene and whose rights and dignity she zealously safeguarded (...)".
Zervino also thanked the Pope for his support for WUCWO and the work of its 8 million women around the world, committed to evangelisation and human development. Finally, she expressed her hope that the meeting between the Pope and the women of WUCWO will be an opportunity to "learn to walk together in synodality".
In this spirit, WUCWO treasurer Monica Santamarina hand-delivered the report of the three current works of WUCWO to the Holy Father, accompanied by the testimony of a young woman from Malawi.
In particular, the Pope received the report from Africa, on violence and discrimination against women, which was drawn up from a sample of more than ten thousand women in 36 different African countries, of different religions, with a questionnaire in 5 languages, in order to facilitate the widest possible participation. One hundred and ten women "experts" in the field of abuse, including 56 religious and 54 lay women, contributed to the women's "listening" sessions.
That same morning, at the Vatican, the world premiere of the documentary IN-VISIBLES, made by director Lia Beltrami with Aurora Vision, for the WUCWO World Women’s Observatory and with the collaboration of the Dicastery for Communication, was screened.
"A work of great beauty, touching on the resilience of these 'invisible' women, but who have been able to go beyond their pain, to transform it into courage, service, love of life and support for other women in difficulty, thanks to the support of the sisters," said Maria Lia Zervino, President of WUCWO.
The report on women in Africa and the documentary are part of a wider international social campaign, which aims to give visibility to the congregations of nuns who with their work and experience, together with lay women's organisations, aim to create a network to eradicate violence against women in Africa. The event took place on the eve of the organisation's General Assembly, which will be held in Assisi from 14 to 20 May.
The full speech of the Holy Father can be found at the following link: https://press.vatican.va/