Pope to Guides: Educate girls for big responsibilities in church, world

VATICAN CITY - Girls must be educated in preparation for great responsibilities in the church and the world, said Pope Francis.

"Today, it is very important that women are sufficiently valued and can take their rightful place in the church and in society," he said June 26, during an audience with a delegation of the International Catholic Conference of Guiding.

Girl Scouts of the USA leaders Anna Maria Chavez and Kathy Hopinkah Hannan were among the delegation.

While faith has been a part of Girl Guiding, called Girl Scouting in the United States, since its inception more than 100 years ago, the international Catholic conference was only formed in 1965. It marked its 50th anniversary in Rome, with an international conference, June 25-30, under the theme "Live as a Guide the joy of the Gospel." More than 200 women attended.

In a world where ideologies contrary to God's design for marriage and family are spreading, the pope said, "it is not only about educating young girls in the beauty and greatness of their vocation as women" in a right relationship with men and respecting the differences between men and women. But it is also to educate them "to take on important responsibilities in the church and in society," he said.

The pope said Guiding has a "notable role" to play in the promotion and education of women in countries where women "are still in a position of inferiority, even exploited and treated badly."

He noted the importance the movement places on the environment and on being in contact with nature. He said his recent encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," speaks of how "education is essential in transforming mentalities and habits in order to overcome the worrying challenges facing humanity regarding the environment."

The Guiding program is "well armed" to contribute to this goal, he said. He urged Guiding members to continue to be "awakened to the presence and the goodness of the Creator in the beauty of the world."

"It is a new lifestyle, more in line with the Gospel," which they can then convey to others, he said.

He also asked the movement "not to forget" to include the possible vocation to consecrated life in its program, noting that many vocations to religious life came through Guiding in the past.

He also urged leaders to consider meetings with the wider international Guiding movement, comprised of women of different faiths and cultures, as valuable opportunities for "sincere and true dialogue, with respect for each other's convictions" and "in the serene affirmation" of their Catholic faith and identity.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015