P A X R O M A N A / E u r o p e

First Women's Meeting in Prague

January 20th to January 22nd, 2006


Participants: Bodo Marta (Transylvania/Romania), Daberdaku Elvira (Albania), Garagouni-Scheerbarth Gina (Greece), Guralumi Albina (Albania), Japenina Anda (Latvia), Koronthalyova Marketa (Czech Republic), Koszewska Julia (Poland), Ledouble Christine (France), Sastre Nuria (Catalonia/Spain), Simoni Luciana (Albania), Weinzettl Annemarie (Austria)

Apologies: Brugmans Edith (Netherlands), Lambert Freda (UK), Le Pechoux Maria Rosaria (F / UNESCO representative of PR), Kernychna Sofiya (Ukraine), Krizanova Jozefina (Slovakia), Pascual Eulalia (Spain), Serrano Ana Maria (Belgium), Szabo Andrea (Hungary), Tresalti Lidia (Italy)



The response to the invitation was really pleasing, and it was a great joy to finally welcome the representatives of nine European countries to the first assembly initiated and organized by Pax Romana women on topics highly relevant for Christian females. In the opening session we agreed to follow the guidelines of the proposal programme, and so we bravely covered the extensive agenda and experienced a very compact, informative, important and interesting weekend in Prague.

The authoresses of the keynote speeches offered the listening audience vivid pictures of how history, past and present political and ecclesiastical situations in the individual countries have made a special impact on women, on their role in society and in church, and which changes they expect, which steps of action have already been taken, and why there have hardly been scored any satisfactory results.

All keynote speeches and contributions - which can be found as attachments - testify how highly motivated women are and why working together more effectively in the future is indispensable.

In the discussions following the individual statements of the keynote speakers, a much better understanding of women's situations in individual parts of Europe was clearly felt, similarities and differences as to the women's acknowledgement and positions there were discovered, special matters of concern were revealed, and strategies of future actions were considered. The participants also put forward their specific worries, wishes and hopes:

Elvira Daberdaku stressed the problems of poverty, lack of health care, family violence, emigration of intellectuals and corruption as Christians' major concern in her country. Since the same difficulties are present in other areas of Europe too, they must become part of our common and mutual interest and activities, and working together with NGOs may occasionally be useful. Emotional and spiritual counselling is needed in the first place, and we must keep in touch and try to support the current activities projected by Catholic women groups in Albania and elsewhere.

Marketa Koronthalyova made us aware that although in her country women are more or less ignored by the church authorities, one must never give in to hierarchical measures or disciplining, but be faithful and follow one’s sense of mission and carry on with one's work as Catholic and ecumenically oriented women intellectuals. The projects on women's spirituality they are pursuing at the moment serve as encouraging examples, and we look forward to sharing the results with them.

Marta Bodo criticized that in her church a very conservative view of women's roles in church and society are being kept up or rather reinforced, and youngsters aiming at getting a job in the church do not expect nor want a change of these traditional roles. But people do not always say publicly what they really think, neither in church nor in society, and Roman Catholics and Hungarians are a minority in Transylvania which is another problem. Women intellectuals are challenged to do intensive educational work, or the church will lose more and more influence on the young and on society.

Anda Japenina presented a more positive picture of Catholic women's work in her country. But although women are very active in the church, decent education is a real problem. There are better chances for education among the Protestants, and if they convert they do so into the Orthodox Church which is more influential in society. Latvian Catholics feel neglected by Rome since they have never received any Vatican document in their mother tongue. The Catholic academics and students hope for assistance and co-operation within Pax Romana to develop their situation.

Julia Koszewska reported that within the younger generation parents are still the models for them. Their views are still traditional about how to run their married life and they accept the woman's role marked out by the church. At present there are two leading figures representing the Catholic Church, one more open to new ideas and changes, the other ultra-conservative. It is not easy for lay people and especially for women to find an adequate position and role in the church and in society at the moment.

Gina Garagouni-Scheerbarth concentrated her speech on the role of the western European woman and her responsibilities towards immigrants from the East and the South. As she sees women as educators in the family who are shaping the future generations, she thinks that we should question the usefulness of our traditions and compare them with "new styles" that are transmitted by films, video, TV or immigrants. We Christian intellectuals ought to work towards a better understanding between cultures and societies and help the refugees and fugitives to be able to accept our western values and ideas, to trust in them and become ready to adopt them if they want to live with us. She aims at founding a "Centre for Immigrant Women".

Nuria Sastre stated that being a female is quite difficult today, because dignity and equality of women - although legally accepted - are not taken seriously by our church or by society. Women are still seen as mothers, educators in the family, carers of children and old folks plus having a career, and especially as obedient creatures, also in the field of sexuality. Although the Bible offers different views of women, the church - like society - keeps up the old interpretation of the woman's role, and so young people turn away from her. We women intellectuals have to stand up and fight for the respect and dignity we deserve and make our church aware of her chances or her doom.

During the summing-up session some points were emphasized in order to enlarge our present fields of activities and to improve our co-operation:

exchange of regional programmes and their results

invitations of academics / students to special regional or international events (organized by one's own associations)

information on important national events in which our movements are only partly involved (but may need more "voices")

passing on information that may be relevant to friends (of Pax Romana, other Catholic or Ecumenical Movements)

finding out about organizations within one's own country that pursue ideas and aims one could co-operate with

keeping in frequent contact with each other

As for the plans for the future the participants agreed on the following:

as a first step there should be regular annual meetings of the representatives of European Pax Romana women and friends

the idea of organizing a European women's Symposium some time later by the Pax Romana women's group will have to be discussed at these meetings

the persons present in Prague wanted the Pax Romana women group to be recognized by a special name and (provisionally) voted for "Woman's Vision", a term that illustrates their aims: new role of women in church and society, their desire to improve women's own qualities and contribute to reform the church and build a just and peaceful society

Annemarie Weinzettl, who did most of the preparatory work for the first women's meeting and acted as the meeting's presenter, was asked to keep up the function as co-ordinator and organizer of activities until the next assembly

next meeting should take place again with the first ELC conference 2007, preferably in a warmer area (e.g. in Barcelona)

theme and topics are to be proposed, collected and passed around during the next ten months (or so)

There was a short final plenary session with the ELC (European Liaison Committee) with the following persons present:

Philippe Ledouble (European Co-ordinater, France), Piotr Cywinski (European Vice President, Poland), Luis Maria Goicoetxea (European Chaplain, Spain), Kevin Lambert (GB), Theo Quendler (Austria), Nuria Sastre (Catalonia)

Annemarie Weinzettl informed the ELC members of the work and plans discussed in the meeting and promised to send them detailed information and the original texts of the keynote speeches.

The next ELC conference will be on in February 2007, probably in Dublin (Ireland). The women group will consider sharing place and time with the ELC group or decide otherwise.


Annemarie Weinzettl February 2006



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