The Vatican beatifies a Polish family that welcomed Jews during World War II

The Vatican beatifies a Polish family that welcomed Jews during World War II

In an unprecedented move, the Vatican on Sunday beatified a Polish family of nine, a couple and their young children, who were executed by the Nazis during World War II for harboring Jews.

During a mass, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, a papal envoy, read the Latin formula for the beatification of the Ulma family, signed last month by Pope Francis.

A contemporary painting depicting Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma with their children near the altar was also unveiled. It is the first time that an entire family has been beatified.

The president of Poland, Andrzej Duda; The leader of the ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, attended the celebration in the town of Markowa, in southeastern Poland, where the Ulma were murdered in 1944. Thousands of pilgrims arrived from different places from Poland.

Pope Francis declared last year martyrs of the faith to the Ulma familyfervent Catholics, including the baby Wiktoria Ulma was pregnant with.

The Ulmas were murdered in their home by Nazi German troops and local police under Nazi control in the early hours of March 24, 1944, along with the eight Jews who were hiding in the house, apparently after being betrayed.

Josef Ulma, 44, was a farmer, Catholic activist and amateur photographer who documented local and family life. He lived with his 31-year-old wife, Wiktoria, his 7-year-old daughter Stanislawa; Barbara, 6, and Maria, 18 months, and their children Wladyslaw, 5 years old; Franciszek, 3 years old; and Antoni, 2.

Saul Goldman, 70, died with them, along with his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim and Mojzesz, as well as Golde Grunfeld and her sister, Lea Didner, with their young daughter Reszla, according to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN). by its acronym in Polish), who has painstakingly documented the history of the Ulma.

The order came from Lieutenant Eilert Dieken, head of the Nazi regional military police. After the war he served as a police officer in Germany. Only one of his subordinates, Josef Kokott, was convicted of the murders and died in prison in 1980. The alleged informer was Les Wlodzimierz, a member of the Nazi-controlled local police. The Polish war resistance sentenced him to death and executed him in September 1944, according to the IPN.

The Catholic Church faced a dilemma with beatifying Wiktoria’s unborn baby and declaring him a martyr because, among other things, he had not been baptized, which is a requirement for beatification.

Cardinal Semeraro, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, issued a clarification on September 5 indicating that the baby had been born during the murders and received a “baptism of blood” from his martyred mother.

Poland’s ruling conservative party has emphasized family values ​​and the heroism of Poles during the war, and the ceremony was a welcome addition to its intense political campaign ahead of the Oct. 15 election, in which the party Law and Justice aspires to win a third term, something unprecedented in the country.

The beatification of the Ulmas raises new theological concepts about the Catholic Church’s idea of ​​saints and martyrs, which also have implications for the movement against abortion due to the unborn baby, said the Rev. Robert Gahl, an ethics professor at Catholic University of America and the Pontifical University of Rome of the Holy Cross.

Perhaps because the concept of “beatification of a fetus” could be wielded by the anti-abortion movement, the Vatican seemed to see the need to declare that the baby had been “born” at the time the mother had been executed.

In declaring that the baby had been born, the Vatican also claimed that the killers intended to kill the baby out of hatred for their faith, a requirement for declaration of martyrdom and beatification, Gahl told The Associated Press.

After the beatification, a miracle would need to be attributed to the intercession of the Ulma for them to be canonized, as the process in which the Church designates saints is called.

The Yad Vashem Institute of Israel recognized the Ulma in 1995 as people who gave their lives trying to save Jews during the Holocaust.

In Poland they are a symbol of the bravery of thousands of Poles who risked everything to help the Jews. A decree by the Nazi occupiers declared that any aid to Jews was punishable by summary execution.

Poland was the first country invaded by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939. Some 6 million of its citizens died during the war, half of them Jews.

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