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World News

Catholic women display 'pink shoes' to call for equality in the church

by Alex Collett

Hundreds of Catholic women in New Zealand have taken part in a public art protest calling for equality of women in the church.

The event, called 'Pink Shoes into the Vatican', took place in the city of Auckland and in the city of Wellington, which consisted of an installation of hundreds of pairs of shoes, donated by women around the country, lined up on the streets leading up to both cities' cathedrals.

A label describing each owner's aspirations for the church was tied up to each pair of shoes. 

Many of the expressions were of anger or pleas for change 

The event was staged by a group called "Be the Change, Catholic Church, Aotearoa" (Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand).

It was formed in 2020, first in Auckland, then in Wellington, by Catholic women who are agitating for gender equality in the church.

Jo Ayers is a founding member of Be the Change in Auckland and one of the organisers of the event.  She told the National Catholic Reporter they are trying to make people aware that "the church really needs change". 

She continued: "We're hoping to reach people in the church, but I'm also interested in people who are on the margins or who've left the church."
"There's lots of Catholic women who've said they've had enough and quit."

Ayers and other organisers laid out the shoes along the streets leading from the Suffrage Memorial to St Patrick's Cathedral. 

There, they received from the cathedral's dean, Fr. Chris Denham, a letter of support from Bishop of Auckland, Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, who was away from the diocese. 

Ayers described the atmosphere as festive and not confrontational.

In Wellington, the placement of shoes started at Parliament House and finished at Sacred Heart Cathedral just a few blocks away.

Sunday's installation inspiration was from the "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican", a protest held in Rome during the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis. 

It was orchestrated by the U.S. group Women's Ordination Conference. 

During the conclave, taking part in the event lit pink smoke flares to rival the white smoke that would signal the election of a new pope.

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