One day after canonizing the first two Palestinian saints since the early days of Christianity, Pope Francis met with a group of sisters from the Holy Land – urging them to pray for peace against “white-gloved terrorism" and persecution.
Speaking of the newly canonized women, Saints Mariam Baouardy and Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, the pontiff said: “I give you a mission: pray to the two new saints for peace in your land, in order that this never ending war may end, and that there may be peace among your people."
He made these remarks during a May 18 audience with members of the Religious Carmelites of Bethlehem and the Middle East, and the Sisters of the Rosary of Jerusalem, who were in Rome for Sunday’s canonization.
Meeting with them in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope urged the religious present to also pray for persecuted Christians suffering at the hands of what he described as “white-gloved terrorism."
These Christians, he said, are “driven from their homes, from their lands, and are victims of persecution ‘with white gloves.’ It is hidden, but it is done!"
This is not the first time Pope Francis has made reference to “white-gloved terrorism." In June 2014, he spoke of this persecution with “white gloves," referring to those Christians forced out in a so-called “elegant way."
The sisters present at the audience with the Holy Father were among the tens of thousands in attendance for the canonization Mass of the Palestinian sisters on May 17.
Saint Mariam Baouardy (1846-1878), canonized Sunday, was a mystic and stigmatic also known as Mary Jesus Crucified. She was a Palestinian and foundress of the Discalced Carmelites of Bethlehem. She and her family were members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. She spent time in France and India before helping to found the Carmelite congregation in Bethlehem in 1875.
The other new Palestinian saint, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (1843-1927), was a co-founder of the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters. Born in Palestine, she spent much of her life in Bethlehem and its area, where she helped the poor and established schools and orphanages.
Pope Francis expressed his happiness that the sisters had made the pilgrimage for the canonization. He then recounted a story told him by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the State of Palestine, of how he left Jordan in a plane full of nuns.
“Poor pilot," the Pope joked. “Many thanks!"
The pontiff urged those present once again to “pray much for peace," and invited them to recite the Hail Mary with him, each in their own language.
The Palestinian women were canonized alongside two others: Saint Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve (1811-1854) and Saint Maria Cristina Brando (1856-1906), from France and Italy, respectively.