Markowa, Poland – September 10, 2023
In a solemn ceremony that drew thousands of faithful, Pope Francis presided over the beatification of the Ulma family on Sunday, September 10, 2023, in their Polish hometown of Markowa. This remarkable family of nine was martyred by Nazi soldiers during World War II for their unwavering commitment to sheltering Jews, an act of extraordinary courage that has now been officially recognized by the Catholic Church.
On Sunday, September 10, in the village of Markowa in southern Poland, the Catholic Church beatified the entire Ulma family of seven children who once lived there and suffered martyrdom. They were executed by the occupying Nazi Germans on March 24, 1944. They had to die because they hid persecuted Jews in the attic of their house. The oldest child was eight, the youngest was one year old, and the seventh, a few-month-old fetus, was born at the moment of her mother’s execution.
During the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis lauded the Ulma family as exemplars of Christian values, urging people worldwide to follow their virtuous path. He emphasized that in the face of hatred and violence that marred the times of the Second World War, the Ulma family “embraced evangelical love” and represented a beacon of hope amid the darkness of the era.
“In response to the hatred and violence that characterized those times, they embraced evangelical love,” Pope Francis declared. “They are a model to imitate in our efforts to do good and serve those who are in need.” He went on to call for prayers for war-torn Ukraine, underscoring the need for charity and tenacious prayer to oppose violence and aggression.
The beatification Mass was presided over by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. The Mass was concelebrated by seven cardinals and attended by 1,000 priests, with an astonishing 32,000 faithful registered to participate.
The Ulma family members who were beatified include Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, along with their children Stanisława, Barbara, Władysław, Franciszek, Antoni, Maria, and an unnamed child who was born at the very moment of Wiktoria’s martyrdom.
Cardinal Semeraro delivered a moving homily during the Mass, highlighting how the Ulma family’s home had transformed into a sanctuary for the marginalized, the despised, and the imperiled. He stressed that the Ulmas exemplified a holiness that extended beyond their marital relationship, permeating their entire family.
Additionally, Cardinal Semeraro paid special tribute to the unnamed child of the Ulma family. He emphasized that this innocent child, who had never spoken a word, serves as a powerful symbol in the modern world. The child’s silent witness cries out to society to embrace, love, and protect life, particularly the lives of the defenseless and marginalized, from conception to natural death. The Cardinal urged society to heed the child’s innocent voice and confront the pervasive issues of abortion, euthanasia, and the disregard for life as a precious gift.
In closing, Cardinal Semeraro invoked Pope Francis’s condemnation of the “throwaway culture” and encouraged all to follow the Ulma family’s example by cherishing the sanctity of life and promoting a culture of love, compassion, and service to those in need. The beatification of the Ulma family stands as a powerful testament to the enduring impact of their sacrifice and unwavering commitment to humanity during one of history’s darkest periods.