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Justos entre as naciones

27/07/2011: General House - Rome

In April and May two events took place in Rome, one very quiet and unnoticed by the world at large, and the other one could not fail to notice. Yet both honoured extraordinary people who, by their actions, made a difference between life and death for others. On 7th April Sr Agnese nds was posthumously awarded Righteous Among the Gentiles for hiding Jewish children in France during the Second World War. Then on 1st May Pope John Paul II was beatified in recognition of the great years of his pontificate.

Those of us who live in Rome, Oonah, Marge, Ivete, Clare and Nicky our Secretary, were invited to the presentation of the award to Sr Agnese. Françoise Pastré from Pax Nostra had also been invited but unfortunately could not attend. Together with a few members of Agnese‘s family and representatives from the Israeli

Embassy we gathered in the apartment in Monteverde belonging to Agnese‘s sister, Adriana Petrosellini. In a simple ceremony, Livia Link, Minister for Public and Political Affairs at the Embassy, spoke movingly about Agnese and presented the award to Adriana. She said that some of the children Agnese saved had come forward and, testifying to her courage and compassion, had asked that she be honoured by Yad VaShem. Agnese, the minister said, had allowed life to continue as these Jewish children are now parents and grandparents of new generations. Enrico Modigliani, from the Progetto Memoria in Rome said that survivors, like the children Agnese saved, are vital for transmitting the message of ―Never again‖to children and young people today.

After the ceremony the family hosted a beautiful reception for everyone clearly appreciating the presence of Sion. The day was memorable for us and although we had never met Agnese we felt that we had touched the life of a truly special person.

Then at the beginning of May the whole of Rome seemed to be stretched to breaking point as over a million visitors came to honour John Paul II.

Two Sisters of Sion augmented the crowd. Marialuisa came from Milan with a married couple to stay in the apartment and Victorine was here from Paris. The four of us here in the Generalate soaked up the atmosphere at the Circo Massimo on the eve of the beatification but apart from Ivete who

went down to be near the Vatican, we watched the ceremony itself on television. Later that day we joined the still crowded St Peter‘s Square to pay our respects to the great Pontiff. As we know, Blessed John Paul II, as a young priest in Poland, saved a Jewish woman, Edith Zierer, whose life was in danger. Indeed, Sr Agnese and Pope John Paul II can each be named Righteous and Blessed.

Clare Jardine, NDS