AUSTRALIA’S bishops have committed themselves to pursuing opportunities for increasing women’s participation in the Church.
The strategies and the bishops’ official response to the 1996 national inquiry into the role of women in the Australian Church and the subsequent report, Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus, are outlined in this year’s Social Justice Sunday Statement, to be formally released this week.
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Francis Carroll of Canberra and Goulburn said: “Through a number of proposed actions the bishops in Australia are looking at ways and means of promoting the equality and dignity of women.
“These range from efforts to create a better balance of women, men, clergy, religious and laity on existing councils, organisations and advisory bodies, to the fostering of research into the ministry in the Church and in particular the role of lay faithful and especially women in ecclesial ministries, from the scriptural, historical, theological, liturgical, sociological and canonical perspectives.”
One of the key projects, announced earlier this year, will be a Commission for Australian Catholic Women.
The Social Justice Statement outlines the role and purpose of this commission.
The bishops say in the statement: “We have decided to take steps at national level to ensure that the dignity of women is honoured and their gifts are given space to flourish for the sake of the Church’s life and mission.
But they add: “Our practices and policies are not always the same as those of civil society, because they arise from our faith in the Church as a communion of life in God with a divinely ordained structure, though they must express the equality of all within that communion.”