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Pope recognizes martyrdom of WWII-era priest and nuns

Catholic Martyrs Fresco

Joaquin Ossorio Castillo | Shutterstock

Frescoes of Catholic martyrs inside Pantanassa Monastery, a World Heritage Site

J-P Mauro - published on 03/20/24

Among the 25 Catholic men and women whose cases for sainthood were recently advanced were a priest and 15 nuns killed in the 1940s by the Nazis and Soviets.

The Communion of Saints is set to grow again after Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of decrees related to 25 Catholic women and men. Among them are 16 martyrs who were killed out of hatred for their faith by the Nazis and communist Soviets.

Sr. Christophora Klomfass and her 14 companions

Vatican News reports that the majority of the martyrs were a group of 15 German-born women religious who were members of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Catherine. While serving in Poland, in 1945, Sr. Christophora Klomfass and her 14 companions were captured by the Red Army, the army of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1946. 

During their time in captivity, Sr. Christophora and her 14 companions were subjected to torture and sexual abuse before ultimately being killed by Soviet soldiers. All 15 women religious died in Soviet concentration camps. As an added insult, the soldiers are said to have “often cut or tore” their religious garments, as a sign of contempt for their Christian faith. 

Fr. Max Josef Metzger

About a year before the martyrdom of Sr. Christophora and her 14 companions, Fr. Max Josef Metzger was martyred for his faith in Nazi Germany on April 17, 1944. Fr. Metzger is remembered as founder of the Secular Institute Societas Christi Regis, as well as the Universal Peace League of the White Cross, an organization dedicated to pacifism. 

After the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1933, Fr. Metzger was arrested by the Gestapo several times from 1939 to 1943. In his final arrest, Fr. Metzger attempted to send a memorandum to the Swedish Archbishop of Uppsala, but his courier was a female Gestapo agent, who intercepted and reported the missive, which contained the priest’s thoughts on the reorganization of the German state and its integration into a future system of world peace.

For the letter, Fr. Metzger was put on trial and sentenced to death by the German People’s Court. His sentence was carried out by means of the guillotine on April 17, 1944.

Vatican News points out that Fr. Metzger proceeded through the whole trial with the understanding that he would most likely lose his life for his faith, yet he never yielded in the face of persecution.

MartyrsSaintsVaticanWorld War II
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