British Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy’s Opening Remarks
Women Religious on the Frontlines Virtual Symposium
June 23, 2020
Ambassador Gingrich, Sister Jolanda, Sister Pat, dear friends,
Thank you, Ambassador Gingrich, for inviting me to co-host the symposium today and to the UISG for allowing us once again to take advantage of your hospitality! I am delighted to join Ambassador Gingrich in recognising the work of the sisters worldwide.
One of the discoveries I have made since becoming ambassador to the Holy See nearly four years ago is how much great work is done by the religious orders around the world. Whether running schools and hospitals, caring for the sick, rescuing victims of human trafficking, or supplying employment for the destitute, the religious orders provide essential services either in places where there is little other provision, or for people for whom there is little other support. They do that without blowing their own trumpet and often at great cost to themselves.
We have with us today three sisters who represent the best of that tradition.
Governments try to address many of the same issues that the sisters do. The UK meets the target of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid, which in 2019 amounted to €16.8 billion. That spending goes on humanitarian aid, vaccinations, education, providing food and medical care, often working with the UN or with governments. I hope our efforts are complementary. The sisters’ operations are endlessly agile, spotting needs and responding to them. They are also resilient, staying in conflict zones for example, even when that is at risk to themselves. We welcome their leadership. We recognise that they are uniquely well placed to build relationships of trust with those who have been exploited and abused. We cannot always do the same things in the same way, but we can work together to end human trafficking, sexual abuse and violence against women, and to promote education for girls, to reduce poverty and to provide healthcare in the world’s poorest places.
These are goals that we have in common. The 650,000 religious sisters are an army for the greater good. We are here to celebrate their service, and hear some of their inspiring stories.
British Ambassador to the Holy See