September 18, 2006

Hungarian Martyr to Be Beatified


1st Beatification in Hungary in 900 Years

BUDAPEST, Hungary, SEPT. 17, 2006 ( , Sister Sara Salkahazi a nun shot to death for sheltering Jews in Hungary during World War II, will be beatified in Budapest.

The beatification, the first to take place in Hungary in 900 years, will be presided over by Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Hungarian episcopal conference, in St. Stephen’s Basilica.

At the end of the liturgy, Jozsef Schweitzer, former chief rabbi of Hungary, will deliver a eulogy of the new blessed.

In April, Benedict XVI signed a decree on Sister Salkahazi’s martyrdom, a document paving the way for her beatification.

Sara Salkahazi was born in Kassa (today Kosice, in present day Slovakia), in 1899.

She belonged to a family of hotel owners, but decided to study book binding. Then she joined her sister and worked in the latter’s hat shop. Eventually she became a writer, journalist and cultural activist determined to respond to the serious social challenges of the time.

In 1929, she entered the Sisters of Social Service, a charity organization founded in Hungary in 1923 to help the poor, and made her first vows in 1930 and her solemn vows 10 years later.

The motto of her religious life was: ”Alleluia! Here I am, send me!”

In her apostolic work, she dedicated herself to works of charity, catechesis, lectures, and the foundation of a youth association. She was also directress of the review ”The Catholic Woman.”

Beginning in 1941, she headed the Movement of Women and Young Catholic Women Workers and created schools for the latter. At the same time she gave classes at a Catholic women’s center. Her activity extended to Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania.


She helped to shelter hundreds of Jews, including many women and children, in a convent in the final months of the war.

In her writings, she fought against fascist ideology. Though aware that this activity endangered her life, on Sept. 14, 1943, she asked permission from her superiors to continue her work, stating that she was ready to offer her life in sacrifice.

Her premonition was fulfilled on Dec. 27, 1944, when she was reported to the authorities, and henchmen of the ruling fascist Arrow Cross Party drove her and the people she had sheltered to the banks of the Danube River and shot them at the foot of Budapest’s Liberty Bridge.

The Sisters of Social Service saved more than 1,000 lives during the war.

Cardinal Erdo, the primate of Hungary, said in reaction to the Pope’s decision: ”I believe that in the year of the nation’s spiritual renewal, the Holy Father could not give a more beautiful gift to the Church, and also to the whole of Hungarian society.”