A conference in India of women religious and others on the impact of the Second Vatican Council has led to the establishment of a national Christian women’s forum.
The Indian Christian Women’s Movement was launched on January 11, the
final day of the four-day conference on “Paradigm Shift in Vatican II
and Its Impact on Women.”
“We were challenged to change our patriarchal mindset, to develop a
feminist way of thinking, to create gender sensitivity, promote the use
of inclusive language, break boundaries and move into a new way of being
and doing,” said the statement from the conference participants, 113
women and seven men.
The statement said the new women’s forum was to be a “voice for
Christian women, the poor and the marginalised at the national level.”
An ad-hoc committee has been formed to mobilise more members into the
movement and draft the ethos of the new forum of Indian Christian
The January conference was organised by several groups under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
“In a highly divided and unjust world, where the prophetic role of
the Church is almost lost, religious women/men are challenged to live
their consecrated life fully dedicated to God and to God’s people and…
to help them overcome exploitation and oppression,” said a statement
from the conference.
Although several documents issued during and after Vatican II spoke
about the equality of women and men, the conference statement pointed
out that “a lot remains to be done to make the shift from subordination
to partnership in church and society.”
In his opening address to the conference, Archbishop Bernard Moras of
Bangalore referred to Pope Francis remarks that a Church without women
“is a lifeless body.”
Father Cleophas Fernandes, director of the National Biblical,
Catechetical and Liturgical Center, acknowledged that although in 2008,
the bishops approved a 12-point action plan for empowerment of women,
several of the steps recommended were yet to be implemented.
However, a survey on awareness on the historic “gender policy” that
the Indian church adopted in 2010 showed that gender awareness in the
Church remained at low levels.
“Gender awareness is far below our expectations,” said Holy Spirit
Missionary Sister Julie George, a practicing lawyer and director of
Streevani (Voice of Women), as she released the survey report on the
role of women in the Catholic Church in India.
While only 16 percent of the 1,000 parish council members surveyed
from 99 dioceses – two thirds of them graduates – had read the gender
policy of the Church, 44 percent of them had not even heard about the