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Papal honour for Adelaide human rights advocate

Archbishop Philip Wilson yesterday announced South Australian Papal Honours for Jan Ruff-O'Herne, counsellor Cathy Black and three priests of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Faith and an extraordinary inner strength helped Mrs Ruff-O'Herne survive shocking human rights abuses. Her commitment to the church was recognised when she became the first woman in Australia to be awarded the Dame Commander of the Order of St Sylvester from His Holiness Pope John Paul II - the second highest honour the Pope can bestow.

Mrs Ruff-O'Herne, 79, was recognised for advocacy for women imprisoned and abused in war, and her Christian virtue and faith.

"The church has been the core of my whole life," Mrs Ruff-O'Herne said.

Mrs Ruff-O'Herne was abused, beaten and raped as a sex slave for Japanese soldiers in Indonesia in 1942. In 1992, she revealed her shocking secrets in her autobiography, 50 Years of Silence.

She has received countless awards, including the Anzac Day Peace Prize and an Order of Australia, but she said this award was the "most special".

"You hear of people who are depressed and have no vision and no meaning in life and moan and groan, and keep thinking of their ailments," she said. "There's a church out there. You can do so much. There are so many spiritual strengths you get.

"The more important thing is what you can give to the church, rather than what you can get out of it."

Another awardee, 63 year old Cathy Black, retired from her counselling position with Centacare just six months ago. And Fr David Cappo, Fr James O'Loughlin and Fr Robert Egar were appointed "Prelates of Honour" by the Pope, with the title of Monsignor.

"50 Years of Silence"
Australian Story: Jan Ruff O'Herne

The Advertiser

23 Jul 2002