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2021 International Women of Courage Award
Chargé d’Affaires Connell Remarks

Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Connell

March 8, 2021

Opening Statement from Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Connell

March 8, 2021

Hello and welcome to everyone joining us on line.

It’s a pleasure to be here at the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) with Sister Pat Murray as we mark (unbelievably) the 110th anniversary of International Women’s Day, and today we also recognize and celebrate the incredible work of this year’s International Women of Courage.

A very special thank you goes to Sister Pat and all the sisters at UISG for their partnership in making today’s program possible.

As we get started, I’ll give you just a brief overview of today’s program.

Before we tune in to the ceremony in Washington, DC at 4:00, that is hosted by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and includes special remarks from First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Sister Pat and I will discuss briefly the important contributions of women, including women religious, around the world and their work to make their communities safe, stable, and prosperous.

Then, at 5:00, Sister Alicia Vacas Moro, The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See’s International Woman of Courage honoree, will join us. So please, submit your questions for Sister Alicia in the chat box anytime during the ceremony.

Now let me just tell you about the award that Sister Alicia is being honored with today.

The International Women of Courage Award has been given annually by the U.S. Secretary of State for the last 15 years, and it honors women across the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in acting to improve the lives of others.

These recipients promote human rights, they address injustices, and they alleviate enormous challenges that too often disproportionately impact women. For example, during the excellent discussion this morning hosted by the Embassy of Australia to the Holy See, we heard from Sister Alessandra Smerilli about how the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportional impact upon women.

The United States is committed to supporting women as leaders in the pursuit of peace and security. We believe that women’s meaningful participation is not simply a women’s issue. But it is, indeed, a global security issue that’s vital to the prosperity of societies everywhere.

Our commitment — that of the United States — to women’s empowerment is actually embodied within our National Security Strategy, and the Strategy recognizes the vital role of women in achieving lasting peace and global prosperity.

Although we know that women provide essential contributions to finding lasting solutions to conflict and to crisis—yet, still, their perspectives and their leadership too often are left untapped or overlooked.

Pope Francis knows that women are partners whose energies and ideas are essential in society. He’s undertaken initiatives and appointments to increase the representation of women’s views and to leverage their talent in the governing of the Church.

Diversity and inclusion make every organization stronger, smarter, and more creative; and so, it’s very encouraging to see the talents of more women religious and lay women — being utilized inside the Vatican to advance significant policies.

I hope that helps explain why the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is so honored that Sr. Alicia Vacas Moro will receive the International Women of Courage award today, in just a few minutes.

For more than 20 years, Sister Alicia has served in war-torn communities in the Middle East, advocating for those who could not speak for themselves in places besieged by war and insecurity.

She worked as a registered nurse and a human rights advocate, fighting to empower women, educate children, and provide medical care in predominately Muslim communities.

From overseeing a healthcare facility in Egypt, working to improve the lives of Bedouin women and children, and caring for refugees escaping war and political conflict, Sister Alicia has dedicated her life to helping others.

She is one of the many inspiring women religious who work tirelessly to advance human dignity and freedom — some of whom will be introduced to you today. Sr. Alicia’s lifetime devotion to peace and justice, especially on behalf of the most vulnerable, is, to me, truly inspirational.

Our gathering today is also to emphasize a key point: Women religious are among the most effective and vital partners we have on the frontlines in fragile communities around the world.

They are often the last beacons of hope for millions of people who otherwise would have no voice.

They serve the displaced and the desperate and do so — frequently — at the enormous risk of harm to themselves, in places where governments have failed, and humanitarian organizations struggle to operate.

It has been an honor, for me, to meet and to work with so many incredible sisters here in Rome. I want to thank all of you, and all who join us today from around the world. And, a special thank you, of course, to Sister Alicia, for making the world a better, more peaceful place.

Thank you.