Roman convent, responding to Pope Pius XII’s request, sheltered 150 during Nazi occupation
January 19, 2018
During the nine-month Nazi occupation of Rome in 1943 and 1944, Augustinian oblate sisters at the convent of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori in Trastevere sheltered 150 Jews and others fleeing Nazi persecution.
In an article published in L’Osservatore Romano, Italian journalist Antonello Carvigiani discussed excerpts of the convent’s diary, which stated that the convent sheltered Jews because of “the desire expressed, but without obligation, by the Holy Father Pius XII, who first fills the Vatican with refugees: the villa of Castel Gandolfo and St. John Lateran.”
The diary recounted the hardships of life during the occupation, from insufficient food rations to the presence of Nazi troops stationed outside the convent’s windows. The nuns responded with intense prayer, and Jews and other refugees joined the barefoot nuns’ daily procession in honor of Our Lady, praying with the nuns, “The Madonna will save us.”
The diary also recounted that a Jewish woman gave birth in the convent and that her infant son was baptized. At Christmas, some of the Jews constructed a Nativity scene, and a few months later, the Jews celebrated Passover.
“This chronicle is an extraordinary document because it describes life with great vividness, made of fear, hunger, charity and faith,” said Carvigiani.
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