DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 January) – Pope Francis verbalized what women viewers immediately noticed in his encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas Sunday morning: that of three presentors, there was only one female, a former street child who broke down in tears at the latter part of her speech.
“There’s only a very small representation of girls among you. Too little. Women have much to tell us in today’s society,” the Pope said, to the applause and cheers of the crowd at UST and television viewers, particularly women, worldwide.
The Pope said men are sometimes too macho and don’t allow enough space for women. “But women can see things from a different angle (from) us, with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions we men are unable to understand,” he said.
“Look out for this fact: she is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. She couldn’t put it into words but expressed it with tears. So when the next Pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls,” the Pope said n Spanish, as translated by his interpreter, Fr. Mark.
Former street child Glyzelle Iris Palomar, 12, was reading from her prepared text when she broke down while asking in Filipino why God allows the children to take to the street and go into drugs and prostitution when it is not the children’s fault. She also asked why only a few were helping street children.
To another former street child, the Pope said: “Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something.”
Asked for reactions on the Pope’s statement to have more women representation, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, told MindaNews in a text message: “Talagang I love this Pope! It is so heartening that, in his attention to the periphery, he did not miss the women. And it’s so important that he notes that men are a factor in the problem.”
Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said women and girls “are affected in distinct ways by poverty, drugs, prostitution as well as by war” and Pope Francis “thus poignantly noted the different perspectives that women and girls can offer.”
Ferrer, the lone female peace panel chair in the world who signed a major peace agreement with a revolutionary group said the young girl’s question was “heartbreaking.”
“She asked why God allows these things to happen but the question is really addressed to us: why do we let these happen? Love this Pope,” Ferrer said.
Both Ferrer and Deles were cited in the December 3, 2014 speech of US former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s at Georgetown University on women as peace makers.
She said when women participate in the peace process, “often overlooked issues such as human rights, individual justice, national reconciliation, economic renewal are often brought to the forefront.”
Aveen Acuna-Gulo of IPDev, a Cotabato-City based project of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance that is serving indigenous peoples, said of Pope Francis’ statement on women: “Rejoicing! Rah, rah, rah! Saying things as they are! Lolo Kiko’s got a lot of Francisms! How can one not love this man with all the wisdom he radiates on every issue?”
“I am just sooooo moved by the Pope’s spontaneous comment about women after that encounter with the young girl,” Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition on Development said. “Tears in my eyes to read about what he said about women having much to tell us in today’s society. That’s what we have been saying in the women’s movement for so long. We see the world from our ‘women’s eyes’ and we see ‘differently.’ Thank you, dearly beloved Pope Francis for your very strong and clear challenge for all of us to ‘give enough room for women.’”
The Pope’s speech began with an announcement of a “sad piece of news,” about Kristel, a 27-year old volunteer of the Catholic Relief Services, who died when a scaffolding in the Tacloban airport mass fell and hit her head on Saturday, January 17.
He asked the crowd to pray for Kristel, an only child of an OFW mother and a father whom he later met at the Apostolic Nunciature after the youth encounter. (MindaNews)