Pope John Paul II said Friday he will soon publish a major document on the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church and in society.
The Vatican said the document will be published before the Aug. 15 conclusion of the church's Marian Year, which the pontiff proclaimed to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus."I intend to soon publish a document on the dignity and the vocation of the woman, as it already was announced in the papal encyclical `Redemptoris Mater,' " the pope told the Council of the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
"In such a way, I intend to respond to the desire that the Synod fathers have expressed in this regard and, at the same time, insert reflections on the role of the woman in the context of the Marian Year," he added.
"Redemptoris Mater," which in Latin means Mother of the Redeemer, was John Paul's sixth encyclical, the most authoritative form of a papal letter. At the time, Vatican circles interpreted remarks in the document to be a restatement of the church's opposition to women in the priesthood.
In the March 1987 encyclical, John Paul wrote that the figure of Mary "sheds light on womanhood as such by the very fact that God, in the sublime event of the incarnation of his son, entrusted himself to the ministry, the free and active ministry of a woman."
"It can thus be said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement," he said.
Women are not allowed to serve as priests or deacons, and the church opposes artificial birth control, abortion and sex outside of marriage.