The Catholic Church has beatified a Polish family of nine who died at the hands of the Nazis for sheltering a Jewish family, nearly 80 years ago.
The beatification service for Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children was held in the southeastern Polish town of Markowa where they died in March 1944. It was attended by both the Polish president and prime minister.
A letter from Pope Francis was read out: We authorise that from now on the venerable Servants of God, Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, spouses and their seven children… who fearlessly sacrificed their lives for the sake of love for their brothers and welcomed into their home those who suffered persecution, be given the title of Blessed.
After the announcement of the beatification, a painting of the family was unveiled and a reliquary containing their remains was brought to the centre of the stage. Beatification is the last step before sainthood in the Catholic Church. It is the first time that an entire family has been honoured together in this manner.
The Pope described the Polish family as a “ray of light” in the darkness of World War II. He added they should serve as a model for others to follow. Polish President Andrzej Duda thanked the Catholic church for the beatification on behalf of the nation. “Thank you for showing the historical truth about that time, about the fate of Poles and Jews on this land under German occupation, who all wanted to survive and yet did not shrink from such ultimate acts of brotherhood and mercy,” he said.
Around three million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered during the Holocaust, accounting for about half of all Jews killed during World War II. Only a few thousand live there today. Premier Christian News reports tensions remain over how Poles treated Jews during the war. While thousands protected them, others were collaborators in their murders.
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