Pope Francis thanks the women of the Catholic Church, says: 'I love you very much'

Nuns at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
(Image credit: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)

During Thursday evening's Vespers service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, Pope Francis delivered a very special message to the women of the Catholic Church.

"What would the Church be without you?" he asked. "Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say, 'Thank you.' A big thank you...and to tell you that I love you very much." The pontiff received three standing ovations during this part of the speech, even though The Washington Post reports church officials had asked the audience before the Pope's arrival to refrain from applauding.

In front of an audience that included 2,500 priests and nuns, he also offered his condolences to the more than 700 Muslims who were killed during a stampede in Mecca early Thursday, and mentioned the Church's sexual abuse scandal: "You suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members." He added: "Whatever difficulties and trials you face, I ask you, like Saint Peter, to be at peace and to respond to them as Christ did: He thanked the Father, took up his cross, and looked forward."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.