Sainthood bid for nun who saved lives

By Simon Caldwell, February 12, 2009
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Mother Ricarda, potential saint

Mother Ricarda, potential saint

A little-known English nun who helped to hide Italian Jews from the Nazis in wartime Rome is being considered as a possible saint.

Mother Ricarda Beauchamp Hambrough, who died in 1966, is credited with playing a vital role in saving the lives of more than 60 Jews by smuggling them into her convent.

Her order, the Bridgettines, have now applied to the Vatican for permission to open her cause for sainthood.

If granted, she will become one of four British women whose sainthood cases are under consideration by the Church.

Ricarda was born Madaleina Catherine in London in 1887 and became a nun in Rome in 1912.

She took the religious name Ricarda and was soon chosen as assistant to the Bridgettines’ abbess, Mary Elizabeth.

After the order opened its new headquarters in Rome, war broke out and Ricarda and her fellow nuns concentrated on helping the victims of the conflict.

Pope Pius XII secretly ordered the religious houses of Rome to shelter Jews after the Gestapo seized 1,007 Jews during a sweep of the city on October 16, 1943.

Mother Ricarda and Mother Mary Elizabeth, who was later recognised by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile, willingly gave refuge to scores of Italian Jews, Communists and Poles fleeing in terror from the Nazis.

A source within the Bridgettines has confirmed that Ricarda was at the heart of the enterprise in hiding refugees.

Ricarda’s efforts to save Jewish lives is bound to feature strongly in persuading the Vatican that she is a saint, as it was also a factor in her abbess’s own swift elevation to beatification in 1999.

    Last updated: 2:06pm, February 12 2009