VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The proclamation of Blessed Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad as “Righteous Among the Nations” is a source of hope for Benedict XVI.
The Pope expressed this in a telegram sent in his name by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, on the occasion of the granting of this award by the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority of Jerusalem.
The honor is awarded to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust.
Mother Elisabetta (1870-1957) founded the Order of Our Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget.
The Pope’s message of greeting and good wishes was read on Friday by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State, during the ceremony held at the Chancery Palace, a Vatican property in Rome. The event was moderated by Leone Paserman, head of the Jewish community of Rome.
The papal message expressed the hope that this honor will be an opportunity to help renew efforts to promote the values of peace and solidarity.
Shai Cohen, counsel of the Israeli Embassy in Italy, awarded the honor to the blessed’s niece, Britten Hesselblad Hede, and to Mother Tekla Famiglietti, abbess general of the Bridgettine order.
The ceremony was also attended by Walter Veltroni, mayor of Rome, and Piero Piperno, one of the people saved by Mother Elisabetta. Piperno was sheltered in the order’s convent, in Rome’s Piazza Farnese.
Archbishop Sandri said: “If in the Christian vision the supreme law and fundamental norm is love of neighbor, regardless of the nation or race to which one belongs, all this reaches a still more intense and profound value in relation to our Jewish brothers, who have received the same gifts of divine Revelation and covenant and are depositories of the same promises.”
Mother Tekla said that “at first sight, it might seem surprising that the Israeli authorities have granted this prestigious and significant recognition to a woman from Sweden who, having converted to Catholicism, became a religious and founder of a religious order.”
“However, beyond social standing and religious membership, one perceives in this honorable recognition the awareness of the central character of the person, the high and inalienable value of every human being and of his life, as a right and duty that must be defended, promoted, and developed,” Mother Tekla added.
For his part, Rabbi Abramo Alberto Piattelli recalled that, according to the Talmud, the saving of a life is tantamount to saving the world.
The Roman Jewish families Piperno and Sed, after having moved to different places in Italy because of the Nazi occupation, decided to return to the Eternal City on Sept. 8, 1943, and sought refuge in the Bridgettine convent.
Piero Piperno said during the ceremony: “Mother Elisabetta restored our full dignity, welcoming us and totally respecting our life and religion.”
Mother Elisabetta, a Lutheran convert to Catholicism, founded the religious order in 1911. Today the order has spread to 16 countries. Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 9, 2000.