The Canaanite woman was all alone: she was a Gentile in a Jewish world and a woman in a man’s world. What makes her special is her determination: she turns to her advantage Jesus’ statement about not giving food to the dogs.
There can be no doubt that God’s “care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation to the hearts of all who live,” and that God’s house should become a house of prayer for all peoples (Liturgy of the Hours). It is therefore fitting that we should pray that the walls, which prejudice raises between us, crumble.
But we must realize that an end to prejudice will not come easily, and it will be overcome only by the determination of the victims of prejudice.
“O woman, great is your faith!” Jesus did not resist the determined woman; rather, he praised her determination. Those of us who work and pray for an end to prejudice must follow Jesus in praising the determination of those who are claiming their rights as human beings.
It is obvious to everyone that women are now taking part in public life. This is happening more rapidly perhaps in nations with a Christian tradition, and more slowly, but broadly, among peoples who have inherited other traditions or cultures.
Since women are becoming ever more conscious of their human dignity, they will not tolerate being treated as inanimate objects or mere instruments, but claim, both in domestic and in public life, the rights and duties that befit a human person.
Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 1963:41.