Pope Francis during his Audience with the Sisters of Social Service Pope Francis during his Audience with the Sisters of Social Service  (Vatican Media)

Pope: Face social challenges with weapons of charity

Welcoming members of the Society of the Sisters of Social Service to the Vatican on the centenary of the religious community’s founding, Pope Francis encourages religious women to face social challenges “only with the weapons of charity.”

By Christopher Wells

Pope Francis met Friday with religious of the Society of the Sisters of Social Service on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the group’s foundation by Margit Slachta.

In his prepared remarks which were handed to those present, the Holy Father highlighted that the original charism of the Society “has been applied over time and through the Church’s social teaching to different political and social situations, up to the present day.”

Defending freedom, justice, and truth

The Pope added that he was impressed by Slachta’s active engagement “in societal issues even while living the consecrated life.

“What is particularly inspiring is her declaration during the Holocaust that the precepts of the faith obliged the sisters to protect the Jews even at the risk of their own lives,” he said.

This led the Pope to reflect on a “difficult” truth: “many martyrs died for the faith,” he said, “not because they were denied freedom to worship their God, but because the coherence of life that this faith imposed on them, thus making it a defence of freedom, justice, and truth.”

He pointed to the example of St John the Baptist, beheaded by “the tyrant” Herod Antipas for having admonished him for not living according to divine law.

Called to be witnesses

Noting that God inspired the foundation of the Society of the Sisters of Social Service during the trying circumstances of the interwar period, Pope Francis went on to say, “Our current time is no different, and today, as in the past, the call to be witnesses is still present.”

He expressed his hope that the Foundress’s words might “resound” in the hearts of the current sisters, “with the same intensity with which they surely did in the first members” of the community.

“They are an inspiration to you, teaching you to face social challenges, like those sisters did against Nazism, with only the weapons of charity.”

The Pope concluded by insisting that, with Margit Slachta, the whole Church and the Holy Spirit “challenge us by repeating the same truth, that there is no greater love than giving one’s life for others.”

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20 January 2023, 12:27