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Breaking through the Stained-Glass Ceiling During John Paul II’s Pontificate?

Women, Feminism and World Youth Days

Charles Mercier    Université de Bordeaux, France    



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.

May 16, 2023
March 3, 2023
Jan. 13, 2023

Keywords: Gender issuesTokenismFeminismCatholic ChurchJohn Paul IIAgency

Copyright: © 2023 Charles Mercier. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.