Members of the Ulma family, from Poland, who were executed by the Nazis during World War II for hiding Jews in their home. Members of the Ulma family, from Poland, who were executed by the Nazis during World War II for hiding Jews in their home.  

Church to beatify Polish family killed for helping Jews in WW2

Pope Francis has approved the publication of numerous decrees regarding causes of canonization, including the recognition of the martyrdom Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their children, who were killed by the Nazis for trying to save Jews during the Second World War; of layman Franz de Castro Holzwarth’s “offering his life” for others during a prison riot; and of the heroic virtues of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci.

By Paolo Ondarza

During an audience on Saturday with the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of Decrees concerning ten servants of God who will soon be beatified, and fourteen holy men and women recognized as Servants of God, who will now be known as “Venerable”.

A whole family of blessed

Among the new blesseds is an entire Polish family, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children, who were killed by the Nazis in 1944 for sheltering eight Jews.

After Hitler's decision to implement the heinous "final solution," the Ulma family, aware of the risk to themselves and despite their financial straits, and moved by the commandment of love and the example of the Good Samaritan, hid a Jewish family for a year and a half before they were betrayed to the police. After killing the Jews they found, the agents of the Nazi regime executed the family sheltering them as a warning to others. The children shared in the operative faith of their parents, while the unborn child in Wiktoria’s womb received a baptism of blood.

Franz de Castro's life offering

With the recognition of the "offering of his life," Franz de Castro Holzwarth, a layman who lived in the 20th century in Brazil, will receive the title "Venerable". His offering was made by substituting himself for a hostage during an uprising in a prison in which he provided spiritual and material assistance.

After once having dreamt of becoming a priest, Franz lived his mission to provide spiritual and material assistance to prisoners with full dedication, remaining celibate and animated by deep faith. In February 1981 during violent riots in the Jacareí prison, he offered himself as a mediator in the negotiation with the police: he then freely and voluntarily gave himself up to the rioters as a substitute for a policeman who was being held hostage. The law enforcement forces, reneging on their agreements, opened fire on the detainees and Franz de Castro was killed in the shootout.

Jacinto Vera, tireless missionary

Also among those soon to be beatified is Jacinto Vera, the first bishop of Montevideo, Uruguay, who lived in the 1800s. From a young age, he felt called to the priesthood. Having received the sacrament of orders, in 1859 he became vicar apostolic and engaged in the formation of clergy and in pastoral care, for which he undertook major missionary journeys.

He also intervened as a mediator to resolve situations of conflict, including defending ecclesiastical jurisdiction against the government. Because of his stance, he was ordered into exile, which he spent in Buenos Aires from 1862 to 1863.

Elected bishop of Megara he resumed his pastoral work and traveled to Europe in search of missionaries for Uruguay. Returning to Montevideo in 1871, he made every effort to bring an end to the civil war. The peace achieved enabled him to give new impetus to missionary activity.

In 1875, Vera consecrated the country to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in 1878 was appointed the first bishop of the new diocese of Montevideo.

Age and health problems did not stop his apostolic zeal. It was precisely during a mission in Pan de Azúcar that Bishop Vera died, his death hastened by a heavy rain that permanently undermined his by then weakened health.

Venerable Matteo Ricci

The Holy Father also recognized the heroic virtues of Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci, acknowledged as one of the Church’s great missionaries and known as the Apostle of China.

While he is especially venerated in Asia, Ricci’s fame and reputation for miracles have spread throughout the world. Father Ricci spread the faith more through his holiness of life and charity toward all than through his words.

Pope Francis has repeatedly recalled the figure of Father Ricci, who, he said, “was great not only for what he wrote, but because he was a man of encounters, a man of the culture of encounter; a man who went beyond being a foreigner and became a citizen of the world." Father Matteo Ricci, he said, was "among the first to establish a bridge of friendship between China and the West, implementing a still valid model of inculturation of the Christian message in the Chinese world.”

Other causes

The Holy Father also authorized the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints to promulgate Decrees concerning the heroic virtues of the following Servants of God:

 - Ugo De Blasi, an Italian diocesan priest who died in 1982

 - Alexander Woźny, a Polish diocesan priest who died in 1983 in Poznań

 - Ignacy Posadzy, also a diocesan priest from Poland, Co-founder of the Society of Christ for Polish Emigrants and Founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Christ the King for Polish Emigrants, who died in 1984 in Puszczykowo, Poland

 - Martin Benedict, a professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual who died in Romania in 1986

 - Joseph Mark Figueroa, a professed religious of the Society of Jesus, born in the second half of the 19th century in the Canary Islands, who died in Argentina in the 1940s;

 - Miradio della Provvidenza di San Gaetano, foundress of the Congregation of the Poor Daughters of St. Anthony, now Franciscan Religious of St. Anthony, who died in Naples in 1926

 - Maria Ignazia Isacchi, foundress of the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Asola, who died in Seriate, Italy, in 1934

 - Margherita Crispi, foundress of the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters of Divine Love, who died in Rome in 1974

 - Margherita Maria Guaini, foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Jesus Eternal Priest, who died in Varallo Sesia, Italy, in 1994

 - Magdalena Aulina Saurina, foundress of the Secular Institute of Señoritas Operarias Parroquiales, who lived until the middle of the last century in Spain

 - Teresa Veronesi, professed nun of the Congregation of the Minim Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, who died in 1950 in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy

 - Luisa Guidotti Mistrali, consecrated laywoman of the Women's Medical Missions Association, who died in present-day Zimbabwe in 1979

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17 December 2022, 15:43