An Irish-born nun famed for campaigning on behalf of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four has been granted one of the Vatican's highest honours. Sister Sarah Clarke. 82, who lives in Highgate, North London, was presented with the Cross of the Church and Pontiff at a ceremony in London on 23 December. The papal award for Sr Sarah's contribution to peace and justice was conferred at the request of all-Ireland primate Dr Sean Brady who, along with Mgr Denis Faul, Mgr Raymond Murray and the late Fr Brian Brady, worked closely with Sr Sarah during her campaigning. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the Galway-born nun campaigned on behalf of Irish prisoners in Britain and was a key figure in the efforts to secure the release of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire family and Judith Ward. A member of La Sainte Union order, Sr Sarah lobbied MPs and members of the House of Lords, and met Cardinal Hume, who took up the case of the Guilford Four. She is credited with enlisting the help of lawyer Garret Price and Chris Mullin MP in the campaigns. Sr Sarah was also active in helping the families of Irish prisoners in England, offering legal support and hospitality at the her convent in London. Born in 1919, she entered La Sainte des Sacre Cours in Co Kildare in 1939 before going on to teach at junior and secondary level in Our Lady's Bower, Athlone and Herne Bay, Kent. As a young nun Sr Sarah studied at Chelsea College of Art. The Cross of Church and Pontiff award was founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 and is bestowed upon both lay and religious persons. Shaped from gold in the form of a Greek cross, the award is given for exceptional and outstanding service to the Church.
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