In September 2000 the Australian Catholic Bishops responded to the Report on the Participation of Women in the Catholic Church in Australia: Woman and Man One in Christ Jesus. The Statement is a blue print for action to ensure that women are more fully participative members of the Catholic Church in Australia.
In 1996 the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference launched a major research initiative focusing on the participation of women in the Catholic Church in Australia. Our aim in doing so was to gather information about the participation of women in the Church in order to help Church bodies to reflect on and promote the Gospel vision of the equal dignity of women and men, to discuss the issues in a constructive way, and to plan for the future.
As Cardinal Clancy said in launching the research project:
"We know that the Church as a whole has much to learn from and about women, who constitute more than half of its membership … We know that their contribution over the centuries and today has been (and is) enormous, even if not fully recognised and valued.
We are also aware, as Pope John Paul II has acknowledged, that the Church's history has often been characterised by mistaken attitudes and actions in this as in other areas; and that the brief period between now (i.e. 1995) and the Church's Year of Jubilee (AD 2000) is an appropriate time for us to acknowledge, repent for and begin to remedy the mistakes of the past."
It is particularly appropriate then for the Social Justice Sunday Statement for the Year of Jubilee to address issues concerning women in the Church, and to announce the actions that the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has decided to undertake in response to the research report "Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus"
Before moving on to the actions that we will undertake in response to the research, let us recall briefly how the research came about and how it was undertaken.
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