On International Women’s Day on Sunday, women have demanded equality in the Catholic Church of India. In a memorandum submitted to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and advisor to Pope Francis, women have called for a prophetic church where their voices count, and demanded respect from the clergy in their communication.
“We seek changes in the policies, practices and structures of the church so that women can participate fully in its life and leadership,” said the memorandum, which has 140 signatures and is being circulated to gather more endorsements. “Every year, we celebrate International Women’s Day with the full support of the bishops and clergy, but the concerns and frustrations of women within the church remain the same. We have leadership training for women but there are no spaces for them to exercise this leadership,” it said.
Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, who was part of the group that handed over the memorandum to Father K.T. Emmanuel at the Holy Name Cathedral to pass it on to the cardinal, said the church has been very active in empowering women through education, legal aid, healthcare, sustainable development and self-help groups. “But when it comes to inviting women to sit at the decision-making table in the church, it stops short. Priesthood is reserved only for men, and governance is linked to priesthood. Until we have women priests, governance must be delinked from priesthood,” Dr. Gajiwala said.