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In the apostolic letter significantly entitled Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Woman), you have shown, among other things, how the veneration given by Catholics to one woman, Mary, is not at all irrelevant to the question of womanhood.

Taking up my preceding observations, I would like to call attention again to one aspect of Marian devotion. This devotion is not only a form of piety; it is also an attitude-an attitude toward woman as woman.

If our century has been characterized in liberal societies by a growing feminism, it might be said that this trend is a reaction to the lack of respect accorded each woman. Everything that I have written on this theme in Mulieris Dignitatem I have felt since I was very young, and, in a certain sense, from infancy. Perhaps I was also influenced by the climate of the time in which I was brought up-it was a time of great respect and consideration for women, especially for women who were mothers.

I think that a certain contemporary feminism finds its roots in the absence of true respect for woman. Revealed truth teaches us something different. Respect for woman, amazement at the mystery of womanhood, and finally the nuptial love of God Himself and of Christ, as expressed in the Redemption, are all elements that have never been completely absent in the faith and life of the Church. This can be seen in a rich tradition of customs and practices that, regrettably, is nowadays being eroded. In our civilization woman has become, before all else, an object of pleasure.

It is very significant, on the other hand, that in the midst of this very situation the authentic theology of woman is being reborn. The spiritual beauty, the particular genius, of women is being rediscovered. The bases for the consolidation of the position of women in life, not only family life but also social and cultural life, are being redefined.

And for this purpose, we must return to the figure of Mary. Mary herself and devotion to Mary, when lived out in all its fullness, become a powerful and creative inspiration.