The three-day conference which has just taken place in the Vatican on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Letter on Women is a very important element in the formation of our culture. Woman stands at the centre of human life and at the centre of Salvation. It is when woman is truly herself that men know how to respond. It is Blessed Mother who enabled the renewal of humanity to take place in Jesus Christ.
The secular vision of woman, whilst giving woman a sense of her personhood, has at the same time, done much to take her dignity away. The secular vision moreover, implies that the Church is responsible for denying women their dignity. The fact remains however, that it was the Church who gave women their dignity in the past, and it will be so again today.
An important development is that a renewed vision of both masculinity and femininity is emerging from a re-reading of the Theology of the Body; what the Theology of the Body says about men and what it says about women. This now has to enter into culture through the lives of men and women who will allow their identity and their lives to be fashioned by this genuine vision, rather than by secular culture.
I took the above photo in the main hall of Notre Dame University in Sydney. There in 2009 one of the Dominican Sisters from Nashville led an eight-week study on the Letter "Mulieris Dignitatem". Participation by young people in this study was very edifying, and has borne much fruit. I know that the number of young Catholics who are marrying in Church in Sydney has risen, and that a significant number of young women from Sydney are presently testing a vocation to religious life.
Another significant element which took place during this eight-week study was the presence of young men. The majority of the participants were women, but these young men came in order that their vision of women might be renewed. And during the weekly recess for questions and discussion, the men came away from the women's group in order to reflect, from a masculine perspective, on the Pope's teaching. The whole event took place in a most thoughtful way and we would do well enable such reflection to take place wherever there is an opportunity.