The history of the Councils of the Church has always been full and articulated by theological, human and, unfortunately even, political surprises. However one certainty has guided the work of the Council Fathers and the experts also present at the Council: the Spirit breathes into the soul but also calms storms.
At Vatican II the breathe of originality in history, of humanity and of the Church had never been seen before: 23 women were present, summoned on 8 September 1964 as auditors by Paul VI, and thus they were shaped by an adverb, which limited their work but perhaps increased their responsibility: “symbolically”
This break with centuries past was made. Adriana Valerio (Madri del Concilio. Ventitré donne al Vaticano II (Mothers of the Council. Twenty three women at Vatican II) presents these 23 women summoned, dressed and veiled in black, telling of the events which acted as a corollary to their silent presence in the halls but also to their interventions, concrete and real.
We owe many thanks to the Pope who succeeded in breaking the age-old barrier even if these women were confined to a modest role, deliberately modest, because a numerous and qualified offspring was born from this initiative. The split took place, the fruits continued to blossom.
Did the Council Fathers describe, with humour, the women present as “mothers” without understanding the profound implication? These women/mothers mark the watershed between two conceptions of women: one which relegates her to household tasks and low-profile help and the other, which takes into consideration all of her potential for intelligence and care, understood as it was understood by the patroness of Europe Edith Stein, who was able to listen and know how to welcome others.