October 22, 2012

VATICAN CITY - New evangelization will never be possible without women who are proud and happy to belong to the Catholic Church, the president of the Belgian bishops' conference told the Synod of Bishops.

"Two-thirds of active members of the Church are women," and the primary evangelizers are usually women, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels told the synod Oct. 9.

"However, many women feel discriminated against by the church," he said. "It's high time" the Church better explain why only men may be ordained.

It is not because women are looked upon as being less worthy or able to minister to others, "it's absolutely the contrary," Leonard said.

The priesthood is open only to men "because the male figure of the priest is a representative of Christ, the groom, who came to wed humanity" through his spouse, the Church, he said.

A male priesthood "is only out of respect for this profound symbol of marriage," Leonard said. "Let us remember and remind the Church of her profound feminine nature as the bride of Christ and our mother."

The archbishop spoke forcefully and with emotion, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who briefed reporters about what occurred at the synod.

The speech was a bit of a "shocker," said one synod participant, because the archbishop is considered to be very conservative.

Leonard said, "Without joyous women who are recognized for all of their qualities" and who are proud of belonging to the church, "there will be no new evangelization."

He called on Church leaders to "never hesitate to entrust more important roles to women in the life of the Church. We must find new and strong ways to do this."