Women speak up about equality in the church from the heart of the Vatican

OK, I'm gobsmacked, as the Brits say (gobsmacked: adjective, British, informal: utterly astonished; astounded). I spent four hours on International Women's Day watching a Voices of Faith event "from the heart of the Vatican" in which women shared stories "for a creative exchange of ideas from a female perspective." There were some amazing narratives.

Mary McFarland, a former dean at Gonzaga University, spoke eloquently about her work bringing online education to girls in camps run by the Jesuit Refugee Services. Students from one beleaguered camp had just one remaining evening class to fulfill graduation requirements. Amid increasing threats of violence, their teacher doubted anyone would risk coming. Yet every single student showed up. "The hunger for education and the girls' great resilience is stronger than war," McFarland told us.

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For the first time, an honest and constructive public discussion about women's inequality in the church was held inside the Vatican. Yes, you heard me, inside the Vatican – at the Casina Pio IV, to be exact.

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