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Pope to Hospitaller and Camillian Sisters: ‘Be audacious in love for the sick’

Pope Francis holds a joint audience with the Sisters Hospitallers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Daughters of St. Camillus, and urges them to be audacious on behalf of the sick and poor whom they assist.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis, on Thursday, addressed a group of Sisters Hospitallers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Daughters of St. Camillus on the occasion of their respective General Chapters. Both congregations are devoted to assisting the sick and the poor.

Opening his address, the Pope encouraged the religious sisters to heed the example of their foundresses and founders, pointing to their audacity and the “holy madness of love” that drove them to found their Congregations in the late 19th century. “If we don’t have love, we are finished,” he noted.

We all need healing

He began by recalling the extraordinary story of Maria Angustias Gimenez, the Venerable Maria Josefa Recio and St. Benedetto Menni, who, inspired by the charisma of Saint John of God, founded the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1881 in Spain to assist the mentally ill, a revolutionary idea for those days. “This selfless gesture is beautiful,” the Pope remarked.

Since then, the congregation has extended its assistance to other forms of suffering and poverty “to make God’s mercy present in the practice of hospitality,” involving patients and their families along with doctors, nuns, and volunteers “in a ‘community’ climate in which everyone participates and contributes to the good of others.”

“This,” remarked the Pope, “is beautiful, because in this way everyone heals together, each according to his need and the wounds he carries. In fact,” he added, “we must not forget that we all need healing, and taking care of each other is good for us, it heals us, not only the body, but also the heart.”

Suffering is overcome only by love

Pope Francis went on to recall Saint Giuseppina Vannini, who, along with Blessed Luigi Tezza, founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Camillus in Italy a few years later, to assist the sick inspired by the charisma of Saint Camillus de Lellis.  

The Pope noted that this Italian Saint, who had suffered herself from several health issues, was animated by her personal experience of suffering, which as she often repeated “is overcome only by love.”

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Dare without fear

As the two Congregations carry out their respective General Chapters, Pope Francis urged the nuns to let themselves be spurred “by the same audacity” of their foundresses and founders.

“Dare fearlessly, and let yourselves be questioned by the new forms of poverty of our time, which are many,” he said. “In this way, you will put to good use the legacy you have received, and will always keep it alive and young.”

Thanking them for their ongoing work at the service of the sick and the poor, the Pope concluded by inviting the religious sisters not to “lose their smile and joy of the heart.”

Pope Francis greets two of the nuns present at the audience

Pope Francis greets two of the nuns present at the audience

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