On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Fidel Götz Foundation and Jesuit Refugee Service co-hosted “Voices of the Faith” in Rome. The event centered on the “stories of remarkable women” who work in a variety of areas, from providing refugees with education to fighting human trafficking. One panel that focused on the role of women in the Catholic Church included a talk from Dr. Carolyn Woo, president and C.E.O. of Catholic Relief Services. “The role of women in the church has often been kept at the margins, seen as ‘guest workers,’ rather than family members,” said Dr. Woo. “We are knocking right now, and our interest is not the interest of women but the interest of the church.”
Dr. Woo’s comments are timely. A report released two weeks after “Voices of the Faith” from the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life project found that globally women are on average more devout than men. The report, titled “The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World,” focused on six different faith groups—Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and the “nones” or religiously unaffiliated—from 192 countries. The report studied women and men in these groups on several measures, including weekly service attendance, daily prayer, the importance of religion, and belief in heaven, hell and angels. It found that the gender gap is most prevalent among Christians: Christian women showed higher religious commitment than Christian men across all six variables. This Pew report reminds us, as Dr. Woo said, that the concerns of women are concerns of and for the church.