VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church and the world itself need the gifts and contributions of women, especially in bringing people together and overcoming tensions and violence, Pope Francis wrote.

“Ours is a time seared by hatred, in which our human family, which needs to feel the power of love, is instead frequently scarred by violence, war and ideologies that stifle the noblest feelings of the human heart,” he wrote. “Precisely in this context, the contribution of women is more necessary than ever.”

Pope Francis greets people attending a two-day conference in Rome on “Women in the Church: Builders of Humanity” during an audience at the Vatican, March 7, 2024. The conference, part of a celebration of International Women’s Day, was being held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis prepared his text for an audience with people participating in a March 7-8 conference, “Women in the Church: Builders of Humanity.” While the pope met participants in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican March 7, he had an aide read his speech.

The conference, hosted by Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, was sponsored by several pontifical universities and coincided with the celebration March 8 of International Women’s Day.

Using the example of 10 holy women — most, but not all, canonized saints — conference speakers looked at how Catholic women have contributed to the church and society through their groundbreaking work in education, spirituality and the promotion of peace or dialogue. The examples included: Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Kateri Tekakwitha and Teresa of Kolkata.

In different times and places and “each in her own distinct way,” the 10 women “gave proof through initiatives of charity, education and prayer, of how the ‘feminine genius’ can uniquely reflect God’s holiness in the midst of our world,” the pope’s text said.

And “because the Church is herself a woman – a daughter, a bride and a mother,” he wrote, “who better than women can reveal her face?”

Pope Francis asked that Catholics put aside “any aggressive and divisive attitudes” and that they exercise “careful discernment to discover, in docility to the voice of the Spirit and in faithful communion, fitting ways for the grandeur and the place of women to be increasingly valued in the People of God.”

An important aspect of the vocation of women, he wrote, is to be the “builders” the conference title referenced. Being a builder is “cooperating with the Creator in the service of life, the common good and peace.”

Women “know how to bring people together with tenderness,” the pope wrote. “With their unique capacity for compassion, their intuitiveness and their connatural inclination to ‘care,’ (they) are able, in an outstanding way, to be for society both intelligence and a heart that loves and unites, to bring love where love is lacking, and humanity where human beings are searching to find their true identity.”

Pope Francis also used his text to thank the pontifical universities for holding up to their students the lives and works of the 10 women saints and he asked them and all Catholic universities to make “every effort to present students with testimonies of holiness, especially of feminine sanctity,” that can inspire them.