New Pope praises women, Italian president ignores them

April 3, 2013

“Women are the witnesses of the Resurrection and they have a paramount role,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday in his address to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

The evangelists did no more than write down what the women saw on the day of Christ’s resurrection, the pope – former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio – told the cheering crowd. He also said that women play a special role in the Church: they “open the doors to the Lord,” the Italian daily La Repubblica reported.

It was an important statement by the newly elected head of the Catholic Church – a tribute to the fair sex and a recognition of the key role women can and should play in the religious sphere of life.

A recognition of women’s importance was, however, distinctly lacking in Rome last week when President Giorgio Napolitano failed to name a single woman to join two working groups, dubbed the “wise men”, he set up to try to find a way out of Italy’s political gridlock.

Both public opinion and the Italian media rebuked Napolitano – a very balanced, diplomatic politician who once headed the Communist party – for his, in my view, quite appalling decision.

Maria Teresa Meli, a journalist with the daily Corriere della Sera, wrote that it was quite shocking that “in a world where Obama is promoting (women) everywhere” and Angela Merkel stands as an example of women’s empowerment, Italy seems unable to give its women the recognition they deserve.

Just last week, President Obama appointed Julia Pierson as head of the U.S. Secret Service, the first woman ever to hold such a job.

In a post published today on the website of the daily La Stampa, popular commentator Massimo Gramellini sarcastically thanked Napolitano for failing to appoint any women to his commission.

“Women, no: they are too pragmatic…endless political debates about nothing leave them indifferent and a little impatient,” the satirist wrote. “Sensing the sterile atmosphere (of the debate) they would have swiftly run for their coats and purses and left the “wise men” to their wise chatter to head back to the myriad practical chores they have to deal with every day in real life.”

Napolitano apologised for his decision on Tuesday, saying that on other occasions he had given women appropriate roles and weight in public life.

To end on a positive note, women’s participation in parliament rose by 47 percent after the last election. One in three members of the newly elected parliament are women, according to a report by Coldiretti, Italy’s largest national association of agricultural entrepreneurs.

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