In an unprecedented move, the Vatican on Sunday is beatifying a Polish family of nine — a married couple and their small children — who were executed by the Nazis during World War II for sheltering Jews.
Last year, Pope Francis pronounced the deeply Catholic Ulma family, including the child that Wiktoria Ulma was pregnant with, martyrs for the faith, paving the way for the beatification Mass that is taking place in their home village of Markowa, in southeastern Poland.
The Ulmas were killed at home by German Nazi troops and by Nazi-controlled local police in the small hours of March 24, 1944, together with the eight Jews they were hiding at home, after they were apparently betrayed.
Farmer, Catholic activist, and amateur photographer Jozef Ulma, 44, captured images of family and rural life. He shared a home with his wife Wiktoria, 31, their children Wladyslaw, 5, Franciszek, 3, and Antoni, 2, as well as their daughters Stanislawa, 7, Barbara, 6, and Maria, 18 months.
Saul Goldman, 70, his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim, and Mojzesz, as well as Golda Grunfeld and her sister Lea Didner and her young daughter Reszla, were also killed with them, according to the state institute of national memory in Poland, IPN, which has meticulously documented the Ulmas’ tale.
Because Wiktoria’s unborn child had not been baptized, which is a prerequisite for beatification, the Catholic Church was forced to make a difficult decision when it came to recognizing it as a martyr and beatifying it.
The kid was actually born during the horrifying murders, according to a clarification from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, and received “baptism by blood” from its slain mother.
Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Vatican’s office for saint-making, provided the clarification on September 5. At the beatification Mass, which Semeraro will preside over, more than 30,000 people from all over Poland are anticipated. An entire family is being beatified for the first time.
The beatification ceremony is a welcome addition to Poland’s conservative ruling party’s intense political campaigning ahead of the Oct. 15 parliamentary elections, in which the Law and Justice party hopes to win an unprecedented third term. The party has been emphasizing family values and the wartime bravery of Poles.
According to the Rev. Robert Gahl, a professor of ethics at the Catholic University of America and Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross University, the Ulma beatification raises several new theological concepts about the Catholic Church’s concepts of saints and martyrs that also have implications for the pro-life movement because of the unborn child.
The Vatican seems to have felt the need to assert that the kid was “born” at the time the mother was put to death since the idea of “beatification of a fetus” could be used as a weapon by the pro-life movement.
According to Gahl, the Vatican met the conditions for a martyrdom and beatification pronouncement by confirming that the child was born and that the murderers wanted to kill the infant out of hatred for the faith.
A miracle attributable to the Ulmas’ intercession would be required for their ultimate canonization, as the church’s sainthood procedure is known, following their beatification.
The Ulmas were honored as Righteous Among Nations in 1995 by Israel’s Yad Vashem Institute for their heroic efforts to preserve Jews during the Holocaust.
They stand in Poland as a testament to the bravery of hundreds of Poles who risked everything to aid Jews. Any help to Jews was punishable by summary execution, according to a Nazi edict issued by the occupiers. In Markowa, Poland, a museum dedicated to the WWII rescue of Jews by Poles debuted in 2016.
On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland for the first time. Half of its citizens—roughly 6 million—were Jewish and perished in the war.