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Funeral held for 110-year-old Polish nun who rescued Jews during Holocaust

Funeral held for 110-year-old Polish nun who rescued Jews during Holocaust
A nun prays Nov. 22 beside the casket and photo of 110-year-old Roman Catholic Sister Cecylia Roszak, believed to be the world's oldest nun, and a rescuer of Jews during the Holocaust. (Beata Zawrzel / Associated Press)

A Polish nun who was believed to be the oldest nun in the world and was recognized as a rescuer of Jews during the Holocaust was laid to rest on Thursday after dying last week at the age of 110.

Sister Cecylia Roszak was remembered as modest and merciful as nuns and other members of the church gathered in Krakow to bid her farewell.

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The mother superior of her convent, Stanislawa Chruscicka, recalled in a phone interview with the Associated Press that Sister Cecylia would often comment that "life is very beautiful but too short."

Born March 25, 1908, Roszak joined the convent at age 21. During the German occupation of Poland during World War II, when she was in her 30s, she was one of several nuns who set up a new convent near Vilnius, in what is now Lithuania, sheltering Jews who had escaped the ghetto there.

In 2009, when she was 101, Roszak and others from her convent were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance institute for saving several Jews, actions that put them at risk of being executed by the Germans.

Chruscicka said a huge bouquet at Thursday's funeral was sent by a woman, Wanda Jerzyniec, who was sheltered along with her brother by Sister Cecylia after the Germans shot their parents in Vilnius in 1944.

Chruscicka said the nuns learned about Jerzyniec earlier this year after Polish media wrote about Sister Cecylia on her 110th birthday. Jerzyniec was too frail to attend the funeral, she said.

The funeral Mass was held at the Dominican nuns' church in Krakow, and Roszak was buried at the historic Rakowicki cemetery.

Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for Poland's Roman Catholic Church, described her as "probably the oldest nun in the world," though Chruscicka said she was certain that Roszak was the oldest.

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