On Sunday, the Catholic Church beatified the Ulma family, a Polish family known for sheltering Jews during World War II. The beatification was officially signed by Pope Francis in August, and a Mass commemorating the family’s sacrifice took place in Markowa, Poland. During the Mass, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro praised the Ulmas, stating that they had paid the ultimate price for their act of kindness, referring to it as a “gesture of hospitality and care, of mercy.” Pope Francis, speaking to the public in St. Peter’s Square, also commended the Ulmas, calling them a “ray of light in the darkness” and urging all Catholics to follow their example of service to others.
The tragic events that led to the Ulmas’ beatification occurred on March 24, 1944, when 44-year-old farmer Jozef Ulma, his 31-year-old pregnant wife Wiktoria, and their children were brutally murdered. Their children, whose ages ranged from 7 years to 18 months, were also victims of this horrific act. It is believed that the Nazis were aware that the Ulmas were concealing Jews, which ultimately led to their deaths alongside the innocent family.
One significant challenge the Vatican faced in the beatification process was how to include Wiktoria’s unborn child, who had not yet been baptized. Baptism is a requirement for beatification and martyrdom. However, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints determined that since the child was born during the murder, they could be deemed to have received “baptism by blood.”
Rev. Robert Gahl, a professor at the Catholic University of America, explained that the Catholic Church’s decision to beatify the unborn child served as affirmation that the Nazis had targeted the child out of anti-Catholic prejudice. This intent is crucial for martyrdom and beatification. The next step in the process for the Ulmas would be canonization, where they would officially be declared saints. However, for sainthood to be achieved, a miracle attributed to the Ulmas’ intercession would be required.
The Ulmas’ tragic deaths occurred approximately four and a half years after the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939. During the war, approximately six million Poles lost their lives, with half of them being Jewish. The beatification of the Ulma family serves as a powerful reminder of the countless acts of heroism and sacrifice that occurred during this dark period in history.
Overall, the beatification of the Ulma family by the Catholic Church honors their courageous act of sheltering Jews during World War II. Their sacrifice serves as a beacon of light in a time of darkness, and their story inspires Catholics around the world to follow their example of selflessness and service to others.