Vatican says Ulma child was born during mother's execution

Wiktoria Ulma is pictured in an undated photo with three of her children and the children of relatives outside the Ulma home in Markowa, a village in southeastern Poland. Wikotria, her husband, Józef, and their seven children were executed March 24, 1944, by Nazis who discovered that the family had been sheltering eight Jews who had escaped internment by German occupying forces. Ulma girls Stasia and Basia are pictured in the middle near their mother, who is holding son Wlodzimierz. (CNS photo courtesy National Remembrance Institute)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a beatification Mass for the Ulma family set for Sept. 10, the Vatican emphasized that all nine members of the Polish family are considered martyrs, including the child that was born during the massacre.

In December Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of the entire family for having sheltered a Jewish family during World War II. Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children, including the child she had been carrying in utero, were killed by the Nazis along with the eight Jews they had taken in. The recognition of martyrdom cleared the way for all nine members of the Ulma family to be beatified.

However, with some news reports saying the beatification would mark the first time an unborn or pre-born child would be beatified, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints issued a written clarification Sept. 5.

Wiktoria Ulma was in the final stage of pregnancy with her seventh child when she was killed, said the note, signed by the dicastery's prefect, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, and secretary, Archbishop Fabio Fabene.

"This child had been born at the moment of the mother's martyrdom," it said, adding that the child was one of the seven children, who are also martyrs. "In fact, with the martyrdom of the parents, it received the baptism of blood."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This baptism of blood, like the desire for baptism, brings about the fruits of baptism without being a sacrament."

The cardinal had mentioned in earlier interviews that the child was clearly considered a candidate for martyrdom; a similar case, he told Vatican News Aug. 30, was the massacre of the Holy Innocents -- the young male children executed on King Herod's orders -- who are Christian martyrs, too.

"Even this child, as it was found in a common grave after the slaughter, was considered worthy of martyrdom," he said, referring to eyewitness accounts by those who saw the bodies, that the child's head and chest were emerged from the mother.

Cardinal Semeraro will preside over the beatification Mass for the Ulma family Sept. 10 in Markowa, Poland.

Born in 1900 and 1912, respectively, Józef and Wiktoria were very active members in their church community.

Jewish residents were being executed in the area starting in 1942. The Ulmas sheltered eight Jews, who had escaped from a nearby village, on their farm in Markowa for a year and a half, even though to do so was punishable by death.

German police discovered the Jewish family members hiding on the farm and shot them dead; they then killed "in hatred of the faith" all nine members of the Ulma family on March 24, 1944.

Yad Vashem recognized Józef and Wiktoria Ulma as Righteous Among the Nations in 1995.


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