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Maeve Heaney speaks at the conference at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome on Wednesday (CNS/Kathrin Ziegler)

In preparation for International Women’s Day, a conference in Rome sponsored by the Australian embassy to the Holy See looked at how the Synod on Synodality was raising women’s voices. Source: CNS. 

International Women’s Day has long been an occasion for women and men connected to the Vatican to gather to discuss the role of women in the Church and society.

But with the full participation of women at the Synod and the assembly’s reflection on the dignity and responsibility of all the baptised, many of the questions raised this year were more focused than in the past and it was clear that the “women’s” issues were not set aside just for that one special day.

On Wednesday, the Australian and British embassies to the Holy See and Caritas Internationalis sponsored a one-day conference on “women leaders”. 

Chiara Porro, the Australian ambassador to the Holy See, began her introductory remarks by paying “homage to those who have opened pathways before us, those who paved the way by championing values, many of which we now take for granted”.

“I think sharing our experiences and elevating the voices of women is so critical, and having women as role models is as well,” she said.

Quoting Marian Wright Edelman, she said, “Really, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see,’ so I think for the new generation, it’s so important to see that these things are possible.”

The conference on women leaders, sponsored by Caritas and the embassies, included a healthy dose of theological reflection.

“Theology can sound like a specialised field reserved for minorities who study a lot and like obscure terms. I beg to differ,” said Maeve Heaney, director of the Xavier Centre for Theological Formation at the Australian Catholic University and a consecrated member of the Verbum Dei community. 

“I contend that theology affects how we live, move and breathe and that it feeds off real questions; ‘Women in leadership, why not and how?’ is one of them.”


International Women’s Day: Celebrations in synod season explore hopes (By Cindy Wooden, CNS)