Nun Who Saved Jews in WWII Is Beatified

(AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) :: Hungarian priests look up to a giant picture showing Hungarian nun Sara Salkahazi as it is unveiled during a beatification ceremony at the St. Stephen Basilica in Budapest, Hungary, on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006. Sara Salkahazi, a Hungarian nun who saved the lives of dozens of Jews during World War II was beatified by the Catholic Church on Sunday in the first beatification in Hungary since 1083.

Updated: 9/18/2006


A Hungarian nun who helped save the lives of dozens of Jews during World War II was beatified Sunday in a Mass attended by thousands.

Sara Salkahazi was killed by the Arrow Cross — the Hungarian allies of the Nazis — on Dec. 27, 1944, for hiding Jews in a Budapest building used by her religious order, the Sisters of Social Service.

The order is credited with saving the lives of some 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust; about 100 were aided by Salkahazi herself.

Her beatification proclamation, issued by Pope Benedict XVI, was read out by Cardinal Peter Erdo, Hungary's Primate and Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, during a Mass outside St. Stephen's Basilica.

''She was willing to assume risks for the persecuted ... in days of great fear,'' Erdo said. ''Her martyrdom is still topical ... and presents the foundations of our humanity ''

Salkahazi was taken along with several other occupants of the home and shot, their bodies falling into the Danube River and never recovered. Details of her death were revealed only in the 1967 trial of some Arrow Cross henchmen.

The beatification was the first in Hungary since 1083, when Hungary's first king, St. Stephen, was beatified along with his son, St. Imre, and St. Gellert, an Italian bishop who had a key role in converting Hungarians to Christianity.

Salkahazi's deeds were recognized in 1972 by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, at the behest of the daughter of one of the Jewish women killed with her.

Some 550,000 Jews and 50,000 Roma died during the Holocaust in Hungary. Historians say one-third of all the victims killed by the Nazis in the Auschwitz concentration camp were Hungarian.

People beatified by the Roman Catholic Church are given the title of ''Blessed'' and are considered to be able to intercede on behalf of those who pray in their name. Beatification is sometimes the first step to sainthood.

Salkahazi was born May 11, 1899, into a middle-class family in the city of Kassa at the time in Hungary but now known as Kosice and part of Slovakia.

She was in her late 20s when she discovered her religious calling. Earlier, she had been engaged to marry and worked as a bookbinder, journalist and newspaper editor.

She is the first Hungarian to be beatified who is not royalty or a member of the aristocracy.

''I know from personal experience ... how dangerous and heroic it was in those times to help Jews and save them from death,'' Rabbi Jozsef Schweitzer said during the Mass. ''Originating in her faith, she kept the commandment of love until death.''

Changes introduced by Pope Benedict XVI again allow beatification rites to be held around the world, instead of just in the Vatican, as was the norm for centuries.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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