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Pink Shoes Into The Vatican Installation At Parliament

Women's worn-out shoes are to be the focus of an action in central Auckland and Wellington organised by a group working for gender equality in the leadership of the Catholic Church.

"Pink Shoes into the Vatican" is an ambitious public art work to be displayed on pavements leading to the cathedrals in central Auckland and in Wellington on Sunday 18 September, women's suffrage day.

The suffrage anniversary shows the church is almost 130 years behind the country in recognising the leadership skills of women, say the women who call themselves Be the Change Aotearoa.

Women are being asked to send in their old shoes with a ticket attached containing a brief outline of the owner's work (and walk) for the church. Collection boxes will be placed in the foyers of most churches in both dioceses.

On the 18th the women will place the shoes, some painted pink, in a walking pattern from the suffrage memorial to St Patrick's cathedral in Wyndham Street, central Auckland. The Wellington installation will start at 12 noon from the steps of Parliament, and lead up Molesworth and Hill Streets to Sacred Heart Cathedral.

The shoes signify the largely unpaid work women have done for the church throughout the ages which will be recorded in short vignettes accompanying the shoes.

They say women are often the majority of any Catholic congregation and are usually the ones organising the various tasks that need to be done at every liturgical celebration.

Yet, the Catholic Church continues the injustice of refusing to recognise women's worth by denying them equality in leadership roles.

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As if to confirm the women’s kaupapa, the new archbishop of Wellington has blocked the group from using the usual communication channels – parish newsletters and announcements from pulpits.

More than 50 years ago the church recognised the priesthood of all baptised lay people at its second ecumenical council in the Vatican, the home of the Holy See where the Pope resides. But this recognition has not been exercised in subsequent years.

The women are committed to journeying towards a new inclusive model of church. They look to the Gospels and see a human man from Nazareth, a person of faith and integrity, a carpenter within his community... a decisive manifestation of God with us.

Be the Change women claim their freedom and mission to challenge all that is unjust and oppressive... communicating their message of radical inclusion.

Some of the comments from women who have already sent their shoes in include:

“Being a 62-year-old woman in the institutional Catholic Church has been a painful journey of understanding that my greatest contribution will remain as a church cleaner, flower arranger and reader! Despite this my faith has deepened and I have found other ways to give of my gifts and skills. The price the institutional church pays for this great wrong is that the next generation will not participate.”

and: “I am a lifetime member of the church I love. Since childhood girls and women have not been equally treated within family, church or society. I have moved on spiritually but sadly the church no longer represents ‘The Christ’ for me.”

and: “Throughout the many difficulties of my life I have known the nearness and love of God.

I am a creative person and have struggled against the rigid constraints of a male dominated institutional church which rejects all but the narrowest liturgical rubrics.”

People are encouraged to visit the installations in Auckland and Wellington on Sunday September 19 and read some of the messages from women who have worked in the church, usually as volunteers, for many years.

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