Pope Vatican

‘Pope Francis needs more exposure to women’s struggles’

Jee Y. Geronimo
‘Pope Francis needs more exposure to women’s struggles’
Sister Mary John Mananzan, a nun activist for women's rights, says Pope Francis seems to have it all save for one – sufficient exposure to the struggles of women

MANILA, Philippines – Although Pope Francis is “very radical in action,” he still needs education about women’s struggles.

This was the observation of Sister Mary John Mananzan, a Missionary Benedictine sister, during the launch of the special double issue of Philippine Studies, an international journal published by the Ateneo de Manila University on Friday, November 21.

Ang kakulangan ni Pope Francis is hindi siya masyadong exposed to the struggles of women. I’m not saying that he doesn’t like women; he has a very natural way of dealing with women,” said Mananzan, former chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.

(What Pope Francis lacks is that he is not very much exposed to the struggles of women. I’m not saying that he doesn’t like women; he has a very natural way of dealing with women.)

Almost two years after he was elected, Pope Francis has already endeared himself to many – even to non-Catholics – for advocating a more open view on issues such as the Catholic stance on marriage. (READ: ‘Think twice’ before calling PH a ‘Catholic nation’)

But Mananzan was surprised when in a 2013 interview, Pope Francis said the Church has to “work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.”

“I said:,’Oh my God, Pope Francis, you haven’t read our theology!’ There is a theology of women….We already have a theology from the perspective of Asian women. He should read it,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

In the same interview, Pope Francis said there should be more opportunities for a “stronger presence of women” in the Church, but he is wary of a role that is “inspired by an ideology of machismo.”

However, Mananzan – a nun activist for women’s rights – said they are not choosing feminism as an ideology but as a principle of action. 

“We love men but what we condemn is patriarchy, the absolute rule of men over women. So it’s not the men that are enemies – it’s the patriarchal values that are put in structures of society,” she explained.

Despite all these, Mananzan said she feels more at ease with the Church and loves it “more than ever” because of the Pope and the gospel he teaches.

“He says: ‘I don’t want a church that is always moralizing. What I want the church to be is to heal wounds and to put warmth in the heart of people.’ Wow. If that is our gospel, that truly is a gospel of joy,” she added.

During Friday’s launch, Rappler moderated a forum as part of its coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January 2015. (READ: What role should today’s Church play in politics?– Rappler.com

Join Rappler in a 100-day countdown to Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines: a journey from the Vatican to Tacloban. Tweet us your thoughts using the hashtag #PopeFrancisPH!

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.