Friday, 23 March 2018

Women of courage, strength and purpose

IN Henley, we are fortunate to have such a wonderful cinema and I’m proud to be a member.

I go regularly and I have tried to see as many of the Oscar nominations as I could.

However, this year, throughout the awards season, each film has been part of a much larger narrative, which I hope will have a greater significance.

This is because of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, which are the result of ongoing revelations that are neither limited to Hollywood nor cinema.

They speak of the experience of thousands of women throughout the world and it is hoped that this will be a catalyst for profound change, in more ways than we can envisage now.

So, I guess you are wondering, why your local Catholic priest is writing about women’s equality. He’s not exactly qualified to do this and that is what I’m thinking as I write this.

I was going to write about how God works through film … etc. That was until I was pulled up by the nine women who challenge me every morning. They are the nine women in the stained-glass windows of our church.

We have Judith, the leader of the army of Israel, holding the head of Holofernes, which she has cut off by the bloodied sword close by.

We have Queen Esther, whose powerful intervention saves the lives of her people.

We have marvellous portraits of Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Ruth, Hannah and Mary.

Each of these women has such wonderful qualities: motherhood, courage, prayerfulness, intelligence, contemplation, strength of purpose, humility, determination, faith, and astuteness, which speak to every age.

In short, they would not allow me to write about the Oscars without mentioning the real story; in fact, they shout, there is only one story!

Today, the trafficking of women is one of the greatest evils our society faces. In 2014, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, under the leadership of Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Pope Francis, founded the Santa Marta Group.

This group has grown into a worldwide collaboration of church and law agencies committed to combat modern slavery. The regular meetings have been attended by Theresa May, Amber Rudd and recently by the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick.

The Catholic church plays a leading role precisely through the intervention and leadership of religious women (sisters and nuns) who are in a unique place to meet these victims in every country of the world and have formed an effective network, which challenges this evil.

These are the modern-day equivalent of the women portrayed in my stained-glass windows.

I pray that these new movements whose fight for justice for all who are trafficked, abused, or whose rights have been infringed in any way, will flourish and that the awards season will be the inception of real intrinsic change.

P.S. My film of the year was Coco, a real gem.

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