Pope Francis is yet again in the news. This time he is being praised for his words about a woman who was nervous to breastfeed her child in public.
In an interview with Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa, Pope Francis said:
There are so many children that cry because they are hungry. At the Wednesday General Audience the other day there was a young mother behind one of the barriers with a baby that was just a few months old. The child was crying its eyes out as I came past.
The mother was caressing it. I said to her: “Madam, I think the child’s hungry.”
“Yes, it’s probably time…,” she replied.
“Please give it something to eat!” I said.
She was shy and didn’t want to breast-feed in public, while the pope was passing. I wish to say the same to humanity: give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.
In the New York Times article that I read, the author mentions Davis Gibson, from the Religion News Service, connecting this quote from the Pope to “A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750,” and explaining that the Pope is merely being quite traditional.
The books says that “the virgin’s nursing breast, the lactating virgin was the primary symbol of God’s love for humanity.”
By the Middle Ages, the breast-feeding Mary was shown in every possible context, and “lactation miracles” and “milk shrines” proliferated across the Christian world. Mary was “the wet-nurse of salvation,” as one phrase had it, offering holy succor to communities exposed to the vagaries of war and disease. Some images of St. Bernard of Clairvaux even show him kneeling in prayer before a statue of Mary, who is squirting breast milk onto his eager lips.
But this is a stretch. Even in the quote the Pope explains that everyone deserves food and depriving them of that food is unnecessary.
Breastfeeding has such a stigma. It’s as though people are willing to look at breasts all day for aesthetic purposes, but the moment breasts are used for their actual purpose people go mental.
It reminds me of this comic: