Pope hails beatified family as ‘ray of light in the darkness’

Thousands attend the Sept. 10, 2023, beatification Mass of the Ulma family, who were martyred in Markowa, Poland, for sheltering Jews under German occupation during World War II. Józef and Wiktoria and their seven children were proclaimed "Blessed" by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, papal envoy, who concelebrated the Mass in Markowa. The Ulmas' seventh child was born as Wiktoria was executed. (OSV News photo/Patryk Ogorzalek/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via Reuters)

By Paulina Guzik, OSV News

MARKOWA, Poland (OSV News) – In one of the most significant moments in Polish post-war history, the Ulma family was beatified in Markowa on September 10.

“I think it will only get me at night, when I come back home, because now I still can’t believe it,” Jerzy Ulma, nephew of Blessed Józef Ulma, told OSV News.

His uncle Józef, along with wife Wiktoria and seven children: Stanislawa, Barbara, Wladyslaw, Franciszek, Antoni, Maria and a child without a name born during the martyrdom of their mother were declared blessed by papal envoy Cardinal Marcello Semeraro in Markowa, where the Ulma family lived and died on March 24, 1944. They were killed by German occupants of Poland for giving shelter to eight Jews in their house.

“It would be a mistake if the day of the Ulma beatification would be used only to remember the terror and atrocities committed by the perpetrators,” Cardinal Semeraro said in a homily. “We would like this day to be a day of joy,” he said.

In 1942, Wiktoria and Józef accepted a Jewish family into their home. “Today, along with the new blessed, we would like to remember their names,” Cardinal Semeraro said. They were: Saul Goldman with sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim, Moses as well as Golda Grünfeld and Lea Didner with little daughter Reshla,” he listed.

“The gesture of Józef and Wiktoria was a sign of obedience to God’s commandment,” the cardinal said. “It was a ‘yes’ to God’s will,” he said, emphasising that a man “despised, rejected and mortally wounded” was welcomed to their home.

During the Angelus prayer on September 10, Pope Francis praised the new blesseds, “an entire family exterminated by the Nazis on 24 March 1944 for having given shelter to some persecuted Jews”.

“They opposed the hatred and violence that characterised that time with evangelical love,” the Pontiff said. “May this Polish family, which represents a ray of light in the darkness of the Second World War, be for all of us a model to imitate in the zeal for goodness and service to those in need,” he said before asking the faithful to applaud for the newly blessed.

Along with Cardinal Semeraro, Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Cardinal Robert Sarah arrived from the Vatican, accompanied by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, longtime personal secretary of St John Paul II, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw and Cardinal-designate Grzegorz Rys of Lódz. Over 70 bishops and 1000 priests concelebrated Mass.

Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich participated in the outdoor Mass, celebrated at the football stadium in Markowa.

He said the Ulmas are “mentors”.

“We ask ourselves, what does God want from us? How do we know what we should do?” he said in an interview with Vatican News. “Of course we have many verses in the Bible that are clear. But it’s very helpful to see someone who lives the way God wants us to live,” he said.

A separate ceremony conducted on September 10 by Cardinal Semeraro, Archbishop Adam Szal of Przemysl and Rabbi Schudrich accompanied the beatification at the nearby Jagiella-Niechcialki war cemetery, where the eight murdered Jews lie buried.

President Adrzej Duda of Poland, first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also were present along with several members of the Polish government. Delegations from Israel, the United States and Germany arrived as well to celebrate the heroic family that showed mercy to their persecuted neighbours.

Photo: Thousands attend the September 10, 2023, beatification Mass of the Ulma family, who were martyred in Markowa, Poland, for sheltering Jews under German occupation during World War II (OSV News photo/Patryk Ogorzalek/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via Reuters)

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