Breaking through the Stained-Glass Ceiling During John Paul II’s Pontificate?
Women, Feminism and World Youth Days
John Paul II’s World Youth Days (hereafter WYDs) were mega-events that happened eight times between 1987 and 2002. They took place in Europe, Asia, North America and South America. Observing the role women played in these global gatherings of young Catholics provides essential insights into gender issues within Catholicism during John Paul II’s pontificate. First, this paper shows that, within the organization chart of the WYDs, women faced a “stained glass ceiling”, but a few did manage to obtain a position of responsibility. Secondly, the paper studies how Catholic feminist culture found a place in WYDs, even though theologically conservative prelates, who did not back the idea of an inclusive Church, often organized them. This second part is focused on the Denver WYD (1993), marked by several feminist performances, which led to strong disputes between liberal and conservative Catholics. The way in which women became involved in this debate and the reaction of the Catholic hierarchy is studied in the third part.