Revisiting St. Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Women (1995)

By Michael Crawford (’23) and Katie Straznickas (’23)

Since March is Women’s History Month we thought that it might be helpful to revisit some elements of Saint Pope John Paul II’s letter to women written on the occasion of the Fourth World Council of Women in 1995. In the letter, which he breaks up into 12 ideas, he writes words of gratitude for everything women have done, he writes about the uniqueness of the different roles of women, from work to daughters, and he also advocates for the equality of women. This letter is a good read to remind everyone where we came from and who has helped us to get where we are today.

When JPII is thanking women who are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, women who work, and consecrated women he brings up at least one talent in each different group. For women who are mothers it’s being the anchor for a child as he or she grows up. For women who are wives it’s joining your spouse, but making sure there is a relationship in which both are serving love and life together. For women who are daughters and sisters it is being the heart of the family. For women who work it’s bringing the needed perspective that will advance generations to come. For women who are consecrated it’s being our greatest living example of the Mother of God.

He then apologizes to women for how they have been treated throughout history. He talks about how their dignity had been ignored and unacknowledged and how they had been relegated to servitude in society. Being forced into that work, he claims, is the reason for the spiritual impoverishment for all humanity. He then goes on to applaud the women who were able to break norms and contribute through all different fields against seemingly unbeatable odds. He wraps this section up with a challenging question: Why do we value women more for their visual appearance rather than their dignity?

Then, JPII leads us to his next point, which is that we need to start treating women equally in society for their contributions in the workforce, especially because women will increasingly be contributing to the future in all lines of work and reform. We need to also understand that it will be their presence that will make these decisions more substantive and discoveries more valuable.

Next, he moves on to write about the degradation of women, which is occurring much too often, especially, the sexual exploitation of women. He talks about how we must do our very best to protect these women and get rid of laws that let offenders off too easy. He then speaks about when women conceive a child after being sexually assaulted, and that although it is a grave sin to have an abortion that the guilt that men and the social environment put them through is where the blame should be placed.

Then, JPII repeats his plea that people recognize how many women have kept pushing their cause for dignity forward and how women keep pushing that movement forward today. Then, he states the only way the dignity of women can become equal to men must be through a campaign of promotion for women that will educate the masses, and he reminds us that upholding the dignity of women is part of God’s plan. 

Finally, he closes his letter by saying that “the Church has many reasons for hoping that the forthcoming United Nations Conference in Beijing will bring out the full truth about women. Necessary emphasis should be placed on the ‘genius of women’, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfil their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them.

Michael Crawford (23), is a History and Secondary Education major and a member of the football team.  Katie Straznickas (’23) is a Business major and a member of the soccer team.  Both are members of the Saint Pope John Paul II Memorial Scholarship Program.