In his General Audience Wednesday, Pope Francis told the crowd that in his opinion, “women are more valiant than men,” as borne out by the biblical heroine Judith.
The Pope told the thousands of people present in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall that Judith “stands out as a great heroine of the people” both for her confidence in God and her courage in acting resolutely when the opportunity presented itself.
The Book of Judith is one of several accounts of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people by the hand of a heroic woman. The biblical book recounts the massive military campaign of King Nebuchadnezzar of Nineveh, who invades the Promised Land, endangering the lives of the children of Israel.
Under the leadership of General Holofernes, Nebuchadnezzar’s army lays siege to Bethulia, a city of Judea, cutting off their water supply and sapping the resistance of the people.
The people are tempted to despair, but Judith—a widow—comes forward, rallying the citizens with words of hope and confidence in God.
In her words of prayer, Judith addresses God, expressing her trust that he will win out over the enemies of Israel:
Your strength is not in numbers, nor does your might depend upon the powerful. You are God of the lowly, helper of those of little account, supporter of the weak, protector of those in despair, savior of those without hope.
In the end, Judith pretends to defect and seeks and audience with General Holofernes, which she is granted. At a banquet, Holofernes gets drunk and passes out, and later in the evening Judith draws his sword and cuts off his head, a favorite subject matter for artists during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
“This is my opinion,” Francis said Wednesday, “women are more valiant than men,” words that drew an enthusiastic round of applause.
“Judith shows us the path that of trust, waiting in peace, and obedient prayer,” Francis said. Without easy resignation, Judith did everything in her power, he said, after having “prayed so much.”
Full of courage, “she looked for a way to approach the army chief and managed to cut off his head, to decapitate him.”
“She was courageous in faith and in works,” Francis said.
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