Francis calls for renewal of 'alliance' between men and women

Pope Francis drinks mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea, as he arrives to lead his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis drinks mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea, as he arrives to lead his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis has called for the reinforcement of what he has termed a biblical "alliance" between men and women that strengthens their communion in relationships but also respects differences between them.

Speaking in his weekly general audience Wednesday, the pope also rejected forms of male chauvinism that devalue women and called on society to "bring back" honor for marriage and family life.

"The social devaluation of the stable and generative alliance of man and woman is certainly a loss for all," said Francis, speaking to the audience of thousands in St. Peter's Square. "We must bring back honor to marriage and family."

The pope was reflecting Wednesday on the second Genesis story of God's creation of humanity, in which God creates woman from the rib of the man, Adam. Francis used the story to again point to his frequent reinforcement of the value of family life and said the bible account should not be used to imply that women are less than men.

"The woman is not a replica of the man, she comes directly from the creative gesture of God," Francis said. "The image of the rib does not at all express inferiority or subordination, but the opposite -- that man and woman are the same substance and are complementary, and also have this reciprocity."

Continuing the story to talk about God's gift of creation to the new humans, the pope said that "the trust of God in the man and the woman, to whom he entrusts the earth -- is generous, direct, and full." But, the pope said, humans "fall in that delirium of omnipotence that pollutes all and destroys harmony."

"We feel it inside of ourselves also many times, all of us," he continued. "Sin generates mistrust and division between man and woman. Their rapport will come to be undermined by thousands of forms of abuse of power and subjection, of deceptive seduction and humiliating presumption, up to those [ways] most dramatic and violent."

Francis then said history shows the trail of ways that the rapport between men and women has been undermined -- pointing first to what he called "the extreme negatives of patriarchal cultures."

"Let's think of the various forms of chauvinism where the woman is considered of second class," the pope continued. "Let's think of the exploitation and commodification of the female body in the present media culture."

"Let's think also of the recent epidemic of mistrust, of skepticism, and even of hostility that is spread in our culture ... regarding an alliance between man and woman that may be able, at the same time, to sharpen the intimacy of communion and guard the dignity of difference," Francis said.

He continued: "If we do not find a sympathetic start for this alliance, able of helping new generations repair mistrust and indifference, children will come to a world always more un-rooted."

Ending his remarks by saying that God has tenderness for men and women, the pope said "God himself cares for and protects his masterwork."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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