Pope prays Ulma family will inspire people to care for those in need
In what is believed to be the first-of-a-kind case, an entire family -- mother, father and seven small children -- were beatified as martyrs with the Catholic Church proclaiming the Polish family risked their lives to save a Jewish family during World War II.
A portrait of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who is pregnant, and their six children hangs near the altar during their beatification Mass Sept. 10, 2023, in Markowa, Poland. Pope Francis prayed the family, killed for hiding Jews during World War II, would be an example to all Christians of goodness and service to those in need. (CNS photo/Justyna Galant)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Risking and ultimately losing their lives to shelter Jews persecuted by the Nazis, "the martyrs Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children" were models of "evangelical love," Pope Francis said.
As the Mass for the beatification of the family was ending in Markowa, Poland, Sept. 10, the pope spoke about them to an estimated 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer.
The entire family was "exterminated by the Nazis on March 24, 1944, for sheltering some Jews who were being persecuted," the pope said. The Ulma family's eight guests -- Saul Goldman and his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim and Moses as well as Golda Grünfeld and her sister Lea Didner and young daughter Reshla -- also were executed.
Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, also read the names of the Jewish family as he presided over the beatification Mass. Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich attended the liturgy.
Pope Francis told those gathered at the Vatican that the Ulma family "countered the hatred and violence, which characterized that time, with evangelical love."
He prayed that "this Polish family, which represented a ray of light in the darkness of World War II, would be for all of us a model to imitate in striving for goodness and in the service of those in need."
"Let us applaud this family of blesseds," he said, leading the clapping.
"And following their example, let us feel called to counter the force of weapons with that of charity, the rhetoric of violence with the tenacity of prayer. Let us do this especially for so many countries suffering from war," the pope said. "In a special way, let us intensify our prayer for the tormented Ukraine."
While the feast day of Catholic martyrs usually is the day of their death, the feast day chosen for the Ulma family is July 7, Józef and Wiktoria's wedding anniversary. The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life noted the decision on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying the couple "lived their 'domestic church' with the sacrament of marriage at the center: openness to life of others in need and of their children."
Only six of the beatified children were mentioned by name at the Mass: Stanislawa, Barbara, Wladyslaw, Franciszek, Antoni and Maria. The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints said the seventh child was born during the massacre and that eyewitnesses reported that Wiktoria's body was found with the baby's head and part of its chest delivered.
Cardinal Semeraro said at the beatification Mass that "without ever having uttered a word, today the little blessed cries out to the modern world to welcome, love and protect life, especially that of the defenseless and marginalized, from the moment of conception until natural death."