Christians Must Defend Human Dignity, Pope Says

Recalls the Figure of a Nazi Martyr, One of Church´s 7 New Blessed

| 548 hits

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II today appealed to Christians to have the courage to defend human dignity when it is threatened.



The Pope made his appeal while recalling the figure of Nikolaus Gross, a martyr of the Nazis, one of the seven people beatified on Sunday.

Addressing 20,000 pilgrims in St. Peter´s Square today, the Pontiff highlighted Blessed Gross´ message to the modern world: the importance that Christians listen to the voice of conscience and have "the courage to raise their voice when it is a question of defending the dignity of the person."

Gross (1898-1945), a miner, trade unionist and journalist, was hanged for his opposition to the Third Reich.

A father of seven, he gave critical guidance to Catholic workers during the Nazi regime.

Arrested by the Gestapo in 1944, three weeks after the failed attempt on Hitler´s life, Gross was condemned to be hanged. His body was burnt and the ashes strewn in the fields.

"With intelligence he understood that the National Socialist ideology was incompatible with the Christian faith," the Pope said Sunday during the homily at the beatification Mass. "He took up his pen with courage to write in favor of human dignity and, for this conviction, was taken to the scaffold. But this opened heaven for him."

John Paul II beatified another German, Maria Euthymia Uffing (1914-1955), who also lived during that dark period of the 20th century.

She was tirelessly dedicated to the sick, especially prisoners of war and foreign workers, who called her "Mama Euthymia," the Pope recalled.

Another martyr beatified Sunday was Armenian Bishop Ignace Maloyan, killed at age 46 in 1915.

A delegation of the Armenian Apostolic Church attended the beatification, representing Patriarch Karekin II, who hosted the Pontiff last month in his Etchmiadzin residence.

"Before the dangers of persecution," the bishop "did not accept any compromise," the Pontiff said. To those who exerted pressure on him, Bishop Maloyan said: "My most heartfelt desire is to shed my blood for my faith."

Also on the list of new blessed is Canadian Emilie Tavernier Gamelin (1800-1851) who, after the death of her husband and three children, opened the doors of her home to the poorest of Montreal. She also attracted the generosity of young women with whom she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Montreal.

"She had a heart open to all needs, especially serving the poor and the little ones, whom she treated like kings," the Holy Father recalled.

Three Italians complete the list of new blessed:

--Father Alfonso Maria Fusco (1839-1919), founder of the Congregation of Sisters of St. John Baptist, dedicated his life to the service of poor children and youths. He was known as the St. John Bosco of southern Italy. The congregation he founded now works in 16 countries on four continents.

--Tommaso Maria Fusco (not related to Father Fusco) was the founder of the Daughters of Charity of the Precious Blood. With his life (1831-1891), he gave this lesson to humanity: "Nobody can acquire or attain faith on his own. It can only be prayed for and implored from on High."

--Eugenia Picco (1867-1921), a religious who lived through World War I in the Italian city of Parma. "She bore people´s poverty, responding to the needs of youth and indigent families, helping the victims of the war that was bloodying Europe at that time," the Holy Father said.

The beatification celebrations were turned into a great prayer for peace. The Pope asked the faithful for their prayers "to obtain the peace longed for by peoples tormented by divisions, hatred and wars."

John Paul II has now proclaimed 1,267 blessed, including 995 martyrs.