Pope Francis: Women Can Change the System of Power Behind the Russia-Ukraine War

The Holy Father spoke to the Centro Femminile Italiane (Italian Women’s Center) on March 24.

Pope Francis meets members of the Centro Femminile Italiane in the Vatican's Clementine Hall on March 24, 2022
Pope Francis meets members of the Centro Femminile Italiane in the Vatican's Clementine Hall on March 24, 2022 (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

Pope Francis said on Thursday that women can help the world change from a logic of power, domination and war to one of service and care.

Reflecting on the war in Ukraine and how to end it, the Pope said that “the real answer is not more weapons, more sanctions.”

He decried states’ spending on weapons as “insanity,” in the March 24 speech to women from the Centro Femminile Italiane (Italian Women’s Center).

“The real answer, as I said, is not more weapons, more sanctions, more political-military alliances, but a different approach, a different way of governing the now-globalized world — not by showing one’s teeth, as right now — a different way of governing international relations,” he said.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the Pope went on: “Why did I want to reflect on this with you? Because you are an association of women, and women are the protagonists of this change of course, of this conversion; provided that they are not assimilated into the prevailing power system, as long as they maintain their identity as women.”

Pope Francis read a quote from Pope Paul VI’s 1965 address to women: “The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”

“The prophetic force of this expression is striking,” Pope Francis commented. “Indeed, women, by acquiring power in society, can change the system. You can change the system; women can change the system if they succeed, so to speak, in converting power from the logic of domination to that of service, to that of care.” 

The Pope reminded all Christians about the fundamental need to change, following the lessons on peace taught by Jesus and “the saints of every age, who make humanity grow through the witness of a life spent in the service of God and neighbor.”

He said: “But it is also — I would say, above all — the school of innumerable women who have cultivated and nurtured life; of women who have cared for fragility, who have healed wounds, who have healed the human and social wounds; of women who have dedicated mind and heart to the education of new generations.”

The Pope said that for women of his generation, who have lived through past wars, it must be “unbearable to see what has happened and is happening in Ukraine.”

The conflict in Ukraine, he added, is the fruit of the old logic of power.

Referring to his past comments about the world living through a third world war “in bits and pieces,” he said that “the basic problem is the same: The world continues to be governed as a ‘chessboard,’ where the powerful study the moves to extend their dominance to the detriment of others.”

He added: “It is now clear that good politics cannot come from the culture of power understood as domination and oppression, but only from a culture of care, care of the person and his dignity and care of our common home. This is proven, unfortunately negatively, by the shameful war we are witnessing.”