Let women not be silent in churches, say Catholic scholars
Women should be allowed to preach at Roman Catholic Mass, according to a series of articles in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
One of the articles was written by French Dominican nun, Sister Catherine Aubin, of the Pontifical University in Rome. She argued that the society in which Jesus lived and moved was structured on a patriarchal model where women were socially invisible and that Jesus himself challenged this exclusion.
"An overview of the history of Christianity leads us to consider the female figures, prophetic and charismatic, who with their authority, in rough centuries, have helped to evangelise a world," she said.
They included saints such as Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Siena.
Women are already preaching, guiding retreats and giving conferences, she added. "Let us sincerely ask a question: then why can't women preach in front of everyone during a celebration?"
Christ made all men and all women he met along his path, witnesses, messengers and apostles, she said. To include women in the pulpit would make the Church "even more lively and attractive".
Another of those cited, Enzo Bianchi, who heads an ecumenical community in Italy, said many voices were being raised to ask for the role of women in the Church to be enhanced. This would "constitute a fundamental change" in Church life.
He referred to past centuries when, in the Middle Ages, lay people were allowed to preach, including some women. This was banned by Gregory IX in 1228.
The ignorance of some preachers at the time had led to heresy and confusion rather than building up the Church.
In 1973, experimental permission was given to some lay people involved in pastoral work to preach for eight years. This included some women. Women are also allowed even today to preach at Masses for children.
"Do not forget that Jesus preached in the synagogues of Nazareth and other cities without being either a priest or an ordained rabbi, but he did it for prophetic charism and because it was commissioned by the heads of the various synagogues," said Bianchi.
Pope Francis is among those who have called for women to have a greater role in the Church.
He recently decreed that women can and should be part of Holy Thursday foot washing ceremonies. Women's Ordination Worldwide said in response to that announcement: "We commend Pope Francis for moving our Church one step closer to the inclusiveness modelled by Jesus. This may seem like a small move forward because women have already been included in this rite for many years in some churches.
"The fact that it is still prohibited by some parish priests around the world betrays the reality of the challenge women face at a local level, with many Church officials refusing to include women in the Last Supper commemoration."