Vatican newspaper to host conference on women's roles in society

Vatican City — The Vatican's semiofficial newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, is hosting a three-day conference on the role of women in the church and the world this weekend.

Being held Friday-Sunday on the topic "The Church and the status of women today," the event will see 15 addresses by a number of prominent women from around the world. The three sessions of the conference will focus on three separate issues: violence perpetrated against women, family issues, and so-called "feminine identity."

The event, to be hosted at the Vatican's iconic Casina Pio IV, is the latest in several Vatican events this spring that have focused on exploring women's roles. An event in March at the same location saw an unprecedented discussion that focused partially on bringing about full equality in the church, where women are largely left out of decision-making roles.

The L'Osservatore Romano event is being organized by Lucetta Scaraffia, a veteran Italian journalist who edits a special monthly section for the newspaper that focuses on giving women's perspectives.

Describing the new event to Vatican Radio on Thursday, Scaraffia said women are "at the center" of many of the problems that are affecting society today.

"Women are also the ones that can help solve [the problems], while they are never heard [from]," she continued. "We want to give voice to these women, to their proposals, to their point of view on the reality and its problems."

Included among speakers at the event are: Maria Cristina Perceval, Argentina's ambassador to the United Nations; Mireille Guigaz, vice chair of the board of The Global Fund; and African Sr. Rita Mboshu Kongo.

Also included on the speakers' list is U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who organizers invited to the event.* The Massachusetts senator, the organizers said, was unable to attend but sent along a brief message to participants.

"I am sorry to not be with you ... because I believe that the theme of the centrality of women is vital in this moment in history," Warren said in her message, sent in Italian.

"It is the task of the whole society to further develop the process of adapting of roles -- in social, cultural and working fields -- to balance the representation of women in all areas," said the senator, who is widely popular in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Showing the range of issues to be discussed at the event, Friday's first session is to see presentations of violence in the Congo and South Sudan, alongside a co-presentation by Italian and French journalists titled: "History and failures of the 'right to abortion.'"

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

*The story has been updated to reflect Warren's invitation and message to the event.

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