Poland organised a beatification Mass service for a Catholic family murdered by Nazis for hiding Jews during World War Two. The outdoor service was attended by the president and over 30,000 pilgrims, led by Pope Francis’ envoy.
The act was a first incident of beatification of a family, considered as a great honour and a step towards sainthood. Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, a representative of Pope Francis, presided at Sunday’s outdoor Mass.
The Pope invited the crowd in St. Peter’s Square to applaud the Ulmas family as he was speaking at the Vatican, describing them as a “ray of light” in the war’s gloom.
Live coverage of the Pope’s address was showed to the ceremony in Markowa.
The family members were executed in 1944 along with the Jews they helped hid in south-eastern Poland, after they were betrayed. It is believed that a Polish policeman betrayed the family in 1944 by telling the Nazis about their secret.
German gendarmes executed the Jews who were hiding in the attic before taking the Ulma family outside and murdering Jozef and Wiktoria in front of their young children, the eldest of whom was an eight year old and the youngest 18 months. Wiktoria was seven months pregnant at the time. The kids were then killed by gunfire.
Farmers Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma and their six small children—Stanislawa, Barbara, Maria, Wladyslaw, Franciszek, and Antoni—hid eight Jews at their farmhouse in the hamlet of Markowa in late 1942, inspired by their Christian principles.
Saul Goldman, 70, was hiding along with his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim, and Mojzesz. According to Poland’s governmental Institute of National Remembrance, Golda Grunfeld and her sister Lea Didner with her daughter Reszla were also present.
In contrast to Nazi-occupied Western Europe, Poland’s punishment for assisting Jews was death by firing squad.
The police officer who is thought to have exposed the family was killed some months later by members of the Polish underground resistance.
At the end of the ceremony, President Andrzej Duda called the beatification of the whole family as an “extraordinary” ceremony and thanked Pope Francis for it. He said, “Thank you for showing the historical truth about those times, about the fate of Poles under the German occupation. The death penalty was intended to instil terror”.
A step on the path to sainthood or canonization in the Roman Catholic Church is the stage of beatification. Those who have been beatified are deemed “blessed” and deserving of public adoration.