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Tree in the Vatican honors the Ulma family’s “gift of life”

in the Vatican Gardens, a Grafted Apple Tree by the blessed Józef Ulma.

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Cyprien Viet - published on 03/07/24

Six months after their beatification, an apple tree honoring the Ulma family was planted in the Vatican Gardens on Wednesday.

“They were all killed, first the eight Jews, then Wiktoria and her husband Jozef, so that the village population could see the punishment awaiting for those who hid Jews,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s secretary of state recalled in his speech, going into detail about the circumstances of the massacre of the Blessed Ulma family.

“The six children began to scream, but they too were murdered. In the space of a few minutes, 17 people died, including the Ulmas’ seventh child, still in the womb, in the final phase of pregnancy. The palm of martyrdom was also attributed to this unborn child, whose name is known only in Heaven,” emphasized the number two of the Holy See.

The members of the Ulma family “are examples of evangelical love lived to the end, to the point of giving one’s life,” he said.

Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, told Aleteia how moved she was after the ceremony.

“This family is a sign of the importance of protecting human life today, starting from conception. Their testimony is extraordinary, with their children, with this child who was still in his mother’s womb, and who is the first martyr recognized by the Church when he was not yet born,” she pointed out, noting that the apple tree is also a sign of life that is reborn and bears fruit, even from a fragile stump.

“This tree is a sign of rebirth, a sign of the Resurrection. It must be a testimony to all the families of the world, who are suffering and in pain, so that they can rediscover hope,” emphasized Gambino.

Waking up to “totalitarian ideologies”

This tree represents “a living monument, producing authentic fruits, symbolic of the fruits brought by the blood of these martyrs,” stressed Cardinal Parolin, adding that this “moving story” also provides an opportunity to “ask for the gift of peace and reconciliation in the world.”

“We want to emphasize how all totalitarian ideologies everywhere and always spread hatred, suffering, and death, and cause devastating tragedies,” he insisted.

“Blessed Ulma family, Jozef, Wiktoria, and their children, pray for us,” beseeched Cardinal Parolin, in the context of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, which is reviving the traumas of war in Europe.

Poland’s ambassador to the Holy See, Adam Kwiatowski, explained to Aleteia how this apple tree ties in with the personal history of Jozef Ulma, who was “an incredible man, an innovator,” both in agriculture and in photography, his other great passion.

The Polish diplomat recalled that the Podkarpackie (Subcarpathian) province, the martyred family’s homeland, wanted to plant these trees in different places, in Poland and now in Rome, “to send a signal about what totalitarianism, hatred and war provoke. This message concerns not only Poland, but the whole world,” Kwiatowski insisted.

“A story of love that prevails over fear”

The president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, sent a message on the occasion of the ceremony held in the Vatican Gardens. Quoting John Paul II, he recalled that the Ulma family’s gift of life shows that “in the very abyss of suffering, love can triumph.”

“The history of this martyrdom chills one with its horror. However, it is, first of all, a story of love which prevails over fear” and an image “of good stronger than evil,” said the Polish head of state. 

President Duda, who had himself planted an apple tree in the garden of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw as part of the campaign to honor Poles who saved Jews during the Second World War, welcomed the planting of the tree in the Vatican Gardens.

“I am glad that it will be growing, blossoming and bearing fruits precisely here, in the Eternal City, in the center of the Christian world, which receives millions of pilgrims every year, who look for inspiration and spiritual reassurance.”

Participants in the ceremony, who included many members of Rome’s Polish community as well as ambassadors from countries as diverse as Ukraine, Cuba, and the United States, noticed that the hailstorm that had delayed the first speeches quickly gave way to bright sunshine. A sign, perhaps, of the victory of life over chaos and death.

JewishMartyrsPolandVaticanWorld War II
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