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Ambassador Gingrich’s Opening Remarks at Women Religious on the Frontlines Symposium
June 23, 2020

Women Religious on the Frontlines Virtual Symposium

Rome, Italy

Ambassador Gingrich giving a speech next to British Holy See Ambassador

Good morning and welcome.

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the British Embassy to the Holy See are delighted to co-host today’s symposium – Women Religious on the Frontlines.

I’d like to thank Ambassador Sally Axworthy for her partnership in making this program possible.

This is, in fact, the third Women Religious on the Frontlines Symposium our embassy has held since 2018.

All of these programs have been organized in cooperation with the International Union of Superiors General, led by Executive Secretary, Sister Pat Murray, and President, Sister Jolanda Kafka.

Thank you, sisters for hosting us at UISG this morning, and for your continued friendship and collaboration.

Our meeting today, by necessity, is virtual. However, our objective remains the same — to highlight the humanitarian efforts of women religious, who selflessly serve on the frontlines of conflict zones and other vulnerable places around the world.

Today, we want to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted their lives and their work.

Tragically, this pandemic has caused vast unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity — further challenging the work of women religious.

We are grateful to be joined today by three remarkable sisters who will speak about the pandemic’s impact on their organizations, and the communities they serve.

Sister Stan Therese Mario Mumuni joins us from Ghana, where she is the founder of the Marian Sisters for Eucharistic Love, protecting and caring for Ghanaian “spirit children,” who are ritualistically murdered due to physical or mental disabilities.

Sister Imelda Poole joins us from Tirana, Albania. A native of Great Britain, Sister Imelda helped establish Mary Ward Loreto in 2009, an anti-trafficking NGO in Albania.

She is also the President of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation, which works to eradicate human trafficking across 27 countries in Europe.

And finally, Sister Alicia Vacas joins us from Jerusalem, where she is the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Sisters.

Sister Alicia recently returned from Bergamo, where she provided health care at the epicenter of the COVID 19 pandemic in Italy.

I’d also like to thank Sister Jolanda Kafka, the President of UISG, for joining us today to offer closing remarks.

Before I turn this over to Ambassador Axworthy, I want to take a moment to recognize and honor the tremendous sacrifices made by women religious during this pandemic.

Here in Italy, and around the world, many faithful sisters have made the ultimate sacrifice while caring for others.

As we continue our work together, let us preserve and honor their memory.

Thank you.