ROME— Too often religious women are the targets of violence around the world, Pope Francis said on Sunday in an address to thousands in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square following his declaration of Mother Teresa as a saint.
“At this moment, I would like to remember those who spend their time in the service of our brothers and sisters in difficult or risky environments. Let us pray especially for the Spanish missionary sister, Sister Isabel, who was killed two days ago in the capital of Haiti,” Francis said.
Sister Isabel Sola Matas of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary was killed in Port-au-Prince last Friday, Sept. 2, by unidentified men who shot her twice in an attempted robbery as she was leaving a bank.
Another person with her was shot but survived and was being treated at a local hospital.
Sola Matas had been living as a missionary in Haiti since 2008, working with the poorest of the poor, trying to provide them with food and education. After the devastating earthquake in 2010, she focused much of her work in aiding the survivors. As a nurse, she created a workshop from where she made prosthetic limbs for those who had lost legs in the quake.
In 2011, she wrote to her order about her situation in Haiti, about the guilt she felt after surviving one of history’s worst catastrophes, acknowledging that she couldn’t “save anyone” because only God can do so. “But I can be a sister to my siblings,” Sola Matas wrote in the text made available by the website of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary.
“You might think: ‘how can she continue living in Haiti, amidst so much poverty and misery, among earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and cholera? […] The only thing I could say is that Haiti is now the only place where I can be and heal my heart,” she wrote, adding: “Haiti is my home, my family, my work, my suffering and my joy, and my place of encounter with God.”
On Sunday, after the weekly Sunday Angelus, heavily centered on the work religious women do around the world, Pope Francis called for an end to “such acts of violence and greater security for all” in Haiti.
He asked the people present in St. Peter’s Square “also to remember other sisters who have recently suffered violence in other countries.”
Among those present in the square was Sister Sally, the lone member of the Missionaries of Charity to survive the March 4 attack on the home care center the order runs in Yemen.
Four of her companions were among the 12 killed by a group of armed Islamic fundamentalists.
“We continue our humble work of love…even at the cost of our lives,” Sister Sally had said in the same square the day before, in an event marking the Holy Year for volunteers and workers of mercy.
In 2015, Sister Prema, general superior of the Missionaries of Charity, had offered the five nuns running the home in Yemen to move to a safer location, as bombings and shootings, the results of civil unrest in the country, were common occurrences.
“All of us had one answer: ‘we choose to stay, to live or die with our poor,’” she said.
There are many cases of religious women attacked, and even killed. Last week, Crux reported on the 81-year old nun who was kidnapped and raped in Bolivia, two sisters murdered in Mississippi, and the Missionaries of Charity who were attacked in Argentina.
However, the list doesn’t end there. For instance, there’s also Sister Veronika Terézia Rackova, from the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit, who was murdered last May in South Sudan, as she was transporting a sick person to a local hospital.