Martyrs of Gorkum(Gorinchem)

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This story might surprise many for the Netherlands is known as a tolerant and multi cultural society, this wasn’t always the case.

The Martyrs of Gorkum (Dutch: Martelaren van Gorinchem) were a group of 19 Dutch Catholic clerics and friars who were hanged on 9 July 1572 in the town of Brielle (or Den Briel) by militant Dutch Calvinists during the 16th century religious wars in the Low Countries.

As of 1572, Lutheranism and Calvinism had spread through a great part of Europe. In the Netherlands this was followed by a struggle between the two denominations in which Calvinism was victorious. On 1 April of the next year, Calvinist forces and a rebel group called the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars) conquered Brielle (Den Briel) and later Vlissingen.

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In June, Dordrecht and Gorkum fell, and at the latter the rebels captured nine Franciscans: Nicholas Pieck, guardian of Gorkum; Hieronymus of Weert, vicar; Theodorus van der Eem of Amersfoort; Nicasius Janssen of Heeze; Willehad of Denmark; Godefried of Mervel; Antonius of Weert; Antonius of Hoornaer, and Franciscus de Roye of Brussels. To these were added two lay brothers from the same friary, Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wijk bij Duurstede. At almost the same time the Calvinists arrested the parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and his assistant.

Also imprisoned were Godefried van Duynsen of Gorkum, a priest in his native city, and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk, a canon regular from a nearby priory and spiritual director for the monastery of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum. To these fifteen were later added four more companions: Joannes van Hoornaer (alias known as John of Cologne), a Dominican of the Cologne province and parish priest not far from Gorkum, who when apprised of the incarceration of the clergy of Gorkum hastened to the city in order to administer the sacraments to them and was seized and imprisoned with the rest; Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, a Norbertine, who became a curate in Monster, South Holland; Adrianus Janssen of Hilvarenbeek, a Premonstratensian canon and at one time parish priest in Monster, who was sent to Brielle with Jacobus Lacops. Last was Andreas Wouters of Heynoord.

In prison at Gorkum (from 26 June to 6 July 1572), the first 15 prisoners were transferred to Brielle, arriving there on 8 July.On their way to Dordrecht they were exhibited for money to the curious. The following day, William de la Marck, Lord of Lumey, commander of the Gueux de mer, had them interrogated and ordered a disputation. In the meantime, four others arrived. It was demanded of each that he abandon his belief in the Blessed Sacrament and in papal supremacy. All remained firm in their faith. Meanwhile, a letter arrived from the Prince of Orange, William the Silent, which enjoined all those in authority to leave priests and religious unmolested. But to no avail.On 9 July, they were hanged in a turf shed.

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A shrub bearing 19 white flowers is said to have sprung up at the site of the martyrdom. Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of the Gorkum martyrs, especially the curing of hernias.The beatification of the martyrs took place on 14 November 1675, and their canonization on 29 June 1867. They were canonised on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as part of the grand celebrations to mark the 1800th anniversary of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul AD67.

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For many years the place of their martyrdom in Brielle has been the scene of numerous pilgrimages and processions. The reliquary of their remains is now enshrined in the Church of Saint Nicholas, Brussels, Belgium.

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Stratford Martyrs

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The Stratford Martyrs were a group of 11 men and two women who were burned at the stake together for their Protestant beliefs, at Stratford-le-Bow or Stratford near London in England on 27 June 1556, during the Marian persecutions.

Protestants were executed under heresy laws during persecutions against Protestant religious reformers for their religious denomination during the reigns of Henry VIII (1509–1547) and Mary I of England (1553–1558}

A detailed description of the event is in John Foxe’s book, The Acts and Monuments.Foxe lists those executed.

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The 16 accused had been brought to Newgate in London from various parts of Essex and Hertfordshire. There, beginning on 6 June 1556, at an ecclesiastical tribunal under the direction of Thomas Darbyshire, the chancellor of Edmund Bonner the Bishop of London, they were charged with nine counts of heresy, to which they all either assented or remained silent. All of them were condemned to death and later published a letter detailing their beliefs in rebuttal of a sermon that had been preached against them by John Feckenham, the Dean of St Paul’s. On the 27 June 1556, the remaining 13 were brought from London to Stratford, where the party was divided into two and held “in several chambers”. Here, the sheriff unsuccessfully attempted to persuade each group to recant, by telling them falsely that the other group had already done so.

The executions were said to have been attended by a crowd of 20,000. The exact place of the execution is unknown; the most likely site is thought to have been Fair Field in Bow (then known as Stratford-le-Bow), north of the present day Bow Church DLR station.An alternative suggested location is Stratford Green, much of which is now occupied by the University of East London Stratford Campus; however, this theory seems to date only from the erection of a monument to the martyrs in the nearby churchyard of the Parish Church of St John the Evangelist in 1879.

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According to Foxe, “eleven men were tied to three stakes, and the two women loose in the midst without any stake; and so they were all burnt in one fire”

In 1879 a large monument was erected in St John’s churchyard in Stratford Broadway, to commemorate the 13 and others who were executed or tortured in Stratford during the persecutions. The memorial is Grade II listed on the National Heritage List for England.

 

Edith Stein- AKA Teresa Benedict of the Cross.

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Today is the 30th anniversary of the beatification of Edith Stein by Pope John Paul II.Her story intrigued me, not because I am a Catholic and I pray to saints, but because Edith Stein’s life has remarkable similarities to another converted Jewish woman called Luise Löwenfels, who was deported from my birth place.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/03/24/forgotten-history-luise-lowenfels/

Both women had fled Germany and moved to the Netherlands,in fact they had met while in the Netherlands because the convents they belonged to were only a few miles from each other. And both fates were intertwined.

Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, (12 October 1891 – 9 August 1942), was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is canonized as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.

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In the midst of all her studies, Edith Stein was searching not only for the truth, but for Truth itself and she found both in the Catholic Church, after reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila. She was baptized on New Year’s Day, 1922.

After her conversion, Edith spent her days teaching, lecturing, writing and translating, and she soon became known as a celebrated philosopher and author, but her own great longing was for the solitude and contemplation of Carmel, in which she could offer herself to God for her people. It was not until the Nazi persecution of the Jews brought her public activities and her influence in the Catholic world to a sudden close that her Benedictine spiritual director gave his approval to her entering the Discalced Carmelie Nuns’ cloistered community at Cologne-Lindenthal on 14 October 1933. The following April, Edith received the Habit of Carmel and the religious name of “Teresia Benedicta ac Cruce,” and on Easter Sunday, 21 April 1935, she made her Profession of Vows.

When the Jewish persecution increased in violence and fanaticism, Sister Teresa Benedicta soon realized the danger that her presence was to the Cologne Carmel, and she asked and received permission to transfer to a foreign monastery. On the night of 31 December 1938, she secretly crossed the border into Holland where she was warmly received in the Carmel of Echt.

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There she wrote her last work, The Science of the Cross.

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Stein’s move to Echt prompted her to be more devout and an even greater subscriber to the Carmelite rule. After having her teaching position revoked by the implementation of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, Stein quickly eased back into the role of instructor at the convent in Echt, teaching both fellow sisters and students within the community Latin and philosophy.

Even prior to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Stein believed she would not survive the war, going as far to write the Prioress to request her permission to “allow [Stein] to offer [her]self to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace” and created a will. Her fellow sisters would later recount how Stein began “quietly training herself for life in a concentration camp, by enduring cold and hunger” after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in May, 1940.

Ultimately, she was not safe in the Netherlands. The Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the nation on 20 July 1942 condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on 26 July 1942 the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts who had previously been spared.

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Along with two hundred and forty-three baptized Jews living in the Netherlands, Stein was arrested by the SS on 2 August 1942. Stein and her sister, Rosa, were imprisoned at the concentration camps of Amersfoort and Westerbork before being deported to Auschwitz. A Dutch official at Westerbork was so impressed by her sense of faith and calm,he offered her an escape plan. Stein vehemently refused his assistance, stating, “If somebody intervened at this point and took away her chance to share in the fate of her brothers and sisters, that would be utter annihilation.”

On 7 August 1942, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was probably on 9 August that Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, her sister, and many more of her people were killed in a mass gas chamber.

 

The forgotten victims of Dachau-The Christian Clergy.

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(picture above:The Blessed Antoni Zawistowski was tortured and died at Dachau in 1942,courtesy Falco van Delft)

Dachau became the camp where 2,720 clergymen were sent, including 2,579 Catholic Priests. The priests at Dachau were separated from the other prisoners and housed together in several barrack buildings in the rear of the camp. There were 1,780 Polish priests and 447 German priests at Dachau. Of the 1,034 priests who died in the camp, 868 were Polish and 94 were German.(Source: “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?” by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler)

Other clergymen at Dachau included 109 Protestant ministers, 22 Greek Orthodox, 2 Muslims and 8 men who were classified as “Old Catholic and Mariaists.”

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Many clergy were imprisoned at Dachau. The first Churchman arrived at Dachau in 1935, but from 1940, Dachau became the concentration point for clerical prisoners of the Nazi regime.

 

According to Ronald Rychlak( an American lawyer, jurist, author and political commentator) the clergy prisoners were treated marginally better than other prisoners, however treatment worsened in the wake of Papal or episcopal announcements critical of the Nazi regime, such as Pope Pius XII’s 1942 Christmas address.

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One Easter, the guards marked Good Friday by torturing 60 priests. Tying their hands behind their backs, chaining their wrists, and hoisting them up by the chains – tearing joints apart and killing and disabling several of the priests. The threat of further torture was used to keep the priests obedient. Food was so lacking, that prisoners would retrieve scraps from the compost pile.

The Nazis introduced a racial hierarchy – keeping Poles in harsh conditions, while favouring German priests. 697 Poles arrived in December 1941, and a further 500 of mainly elderly clergy were brought in October the following year. Inadequately clothed for the bitter cold, of this group only 82 survived. A large number of Polish priests were chosen for Nazi medical experiments. In November 1942, 20 were given phlegmons. 120 were used by Dr Schilling for malaria experiments between July 1942 and May 1944.

Klaus_SCHILLING_arzt_KZ_dachauSeveral Poles met their deaths with the “invalid trains” sent out from the camp, others were liquidated in the camp and given bogus death certificates. Some died of cruel punishment for misdemeanors – beaten to death or run to exhaustion.

Polish priests were not permitted religious activity. Anti-religious prisoners were planted in the Polish block to watch that the rule was not broken, but some found ways to circumvent the prohibition: clandestinely celebrating the mass on their work details. By 1944, conditions had been relaxed and Poles could hold a weekly service. Eventually, they were allowed to attend the chapel, with Germany’s hopes of victory in the war fading.

Amid the Nazi persecution of the Tirolian Catholics, the Blessed Otto Neururer, a parish priest was sent to Dachau for “slander to the detriment of German marriage”, after he advised a girl against marrying the friend of a senior Nazi. He was cruelly executed at Buchenwald in 1940 for conducting a baptism there. He was the first priest killed in the concentration camps

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Father Hermann Scheipers was saved from the gas chamber by his twin sister on 13th August 1942. After a secret meeting with her brother in Dachau she made a private visit to the civil servants in the Central Reich Security Office in Berlin who were responsible for the imprisoned priests. Following a dramatic conversation she received a promise from the civil servants that her brother would not be gassed. This promise also applied to all the other priests. Indeed, from that moment on, no priests were sent to the gas chamber. Thus Anna Scheipers not only saved her brother’s life but those of more than 500 other priests.

In Dachau Scheipers constantly witnessed the cruel treatment and deadly human experiments on the prisoners. Many of them were immersed in cold water to test the limits of hypothermia. The experiments were needed in order to develop special clothing for the Armed Forces. According to Scheipers: “All of them died when their body temperature sank to 27°. Only one Russian held out to 17°”. Nonetheless Scheipers’ faith and reinforced inner conviction prevented his feelings from being deadened. Indeed the opposite was true. He remained constantly full of hope and gave aid to his co-prisoners, in particular the Polish priests, wherever he could. He also began to take an interest in the Russian language.

Scheipers said  at one stage his “death certificate” was signed when he was feeling faint during a role  call session one morning in 1942, because he had become “completely exhausted from all the work” in the camp, not because he was sick.

 

Sister Maria Restituta Kafka and Sister Élise Rivet-Defiant WWII Heroes

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Sr Maria Restituta Kafka:

Born on 1 May 1894 [at Hussowitz bei Bruenn in the Austria-Hungary Empire, today] Brno-Husovice, in modern day Czech Republic, of humble background, Helene Kafka grew up in the Austrian capital where she worked in the Lainz hospital with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. In 1914 she entered the convent and received the name Maria Restituta. From 1919 until 1942 she served in the hospital in Moedling, Vienna, where she became a surgical nurse and an anaesthetist, esteemed for her professional competence, beloved for her sensitivity and respected for her energetic character, so much that she soon earned the nickname ‘Sister Resoluta’.

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After Germany annexed Austria, the religious worked for justice and the dignity of every human being. Faced with the anti-religious suppression of the Nazis, she responded by reaffirming religious freedom and by refusing to remove the crucifixes in the hospital. She also countered Hitler’s swastika with the Cross of Christ. She also spread ‘A soldier’s song’ that spoke of democracy, peace, and a free Austria. Spied on by two ladies, she was denounced by a doctor close to the SS, who for some time sought an opportunity to distance her from the hospital

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A Viennese cannot keep her mouth shut, she said. When a new hospital wing was constructed, Kafka kept to traditional Catholic practice and hung a crucifix in every room.

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The Nazi authorities demanded that the crosses be taken down, threatening her dismissal, but she refused.The crucifixes were not removed, nor was Kafka, since the Franciscan community said that they could not replace her.

Kafka continued in her vocal criticism of the Nazi government and several years later was denounced by a doctor who strongly supported the regime. On Ash Wednesday 1942 (18 February of that year), while coming out of the operating theater, Kafka was arrested by the Gestapo and accused, not only of hanging the crucifixes, but also of having dictated a poem mocking Hitler.On 29 October 1942 she was sentenced to death by the guillotine by the Volksgerichtshof for “favouring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason”. The authorities offered to release her if she would leave the convent, but she refused.

When a request for clemency reached the desk of Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery.

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He replied that her execution would provide “effective intimidation” for others who might want to resist the Nazis.Kafka spent the rest of her days in prison, where she was noted for caring for other prisoners. During this period, she wrote in a letter from the prison:

It does not matter how far we are separated from everything, no matter what is taken from us: the faith that we carry in our hearts is something no one can take from us. In this way we build an altar in our own hearts.

Kafa was sent to the guillotine on 30 March 1943.She was 48 years old.

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On 21 June 1998, on the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Vienna, Kafka was beatified by him. She was the first female martyr of Vienna.

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Kafka, the only Religious Sister to be formally condemned to death under the Nazi regime, was commemorated in Rome on the evening of 4 March 2013, in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’Isola on Tiber Island, with a liturgy of the word at which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presided.

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During the service, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity gave to basilica a small cross which Kakfa had worn on the belt of her religious habit. The relic was placed in the chapel there which remembers the martyrs of Nationalist Socialism

Élise Rivet (January 19, 1890, Draria, Algeria – March 30, 1945, Ravensbrück concentration camp, Germany) was a Roman Catholic and World War II heroine

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The daughter of a French naval officer, she joined the convent of the medical sisters of “Notre Dame de Compassion” in Lyon. In 1933 she became “Mère Marie Élisabeth de l’Eucharistie”, the convent’s Mother Superior. After the fall of the French Third Republic to Nazi Germany in World War II, she began hiding refugees from the Gestapo[citation needed] and eventually used her convent to store weapons and ammunition for the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR).

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On March 24, 1944 she and her assistant were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the prison at Fort Montluc in Lyon.

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From there she was taken to Romainville before being shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin, Germany. There, stripped of her religious garments, she was forced into hard labor. With the end of the War in sight, the Germans began a massive amount of killings by gas chamber, including Mother Élise, on March 30, 1945, only weeks before the war ended. Rivet volunteered to go to the gas chamber  in place of a mother only weeks before Germany surrendered unconditionally.[She was 55 years old.

In 1961, the government of France honored her with her portrait on a postage stamp and a street bearing her name in Brignais (Lyon) was inaugurated on December 2, 1979.

 

In 1997, she was posthumously awarded the Médaille des Justes and in 1999 the “Salle Élise Rivet” was named for her at the Institut des Sciences de l’Homme in Lyon.

 

Atom Bombed Madonna- A WWII Miracle

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When the atom bomb “Fat Boy” devastated on the 9th of August 1945, one of the buildings reduced to rubble was the city’s Urakami cathedral — then among the largest churches in Asia.

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The blinding nuclear flash that would claim more than 70,000 lives in the city also, in an instant, blew out the stained glass windows of the church, toppled its walls, burnt its altar and melted its iron bell.

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But, in what local Christian followers have likened to a miracle, the head of a wooden Virgin Mary statue survived amid the collapsed columns and scorched debris of the Romanesque church flattened on August 9, 1945.

The appearance of the war-ravaged religious icon is haunting. The Madonna’s eyes have become scorched, black hollows, the right cheek is charred, and a crack runs like a streaking tear down her face.

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The remains of the statue of the Virgin Mary have found a new home inside a rebuilt church, also called St Mary’s, built on the same site, only 500 metres from the bomb’s ground zero.

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When the Pope tried to kill Hitler.

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The role of the Catholic church has often been questioned and criticized , and to en extent rightfully so.Pope Pius Pius XII. sometimes derided as ‘Hitler’s Pope’ because of his reluctance to condemn Nazi war crimes, was allegedly trying to stir up German agitators and convince them to strike down the Führer from within.
Historian Mark Riebling claims that Pius’s apparent silence on Hitler’s atrocities against Jews, minorities and even members of his own church was in fact cover while he tried to help members of the German resistance.
His recently -released book, Church of Spies, details secret conversations held by Pius’s go-betweens, who linked high-ranking Germans dismayed with Hitler’s leadership with the Allies, in the hope of securing a way out without the massive bloodshed of the Second World War

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Backed by a mass of carefully compiled documentation, Riebling shows that Pius cooperated in a variety of plots, initiated by patriotic, anti-Nazi Germans, to assassinate Hitler and replace the National Socialist regime with a government that would make peace with the West.

The Nazis, in fact, were deeply disturbed by the election of Pius XII in 1939, well aware of Pacelli’s many anti-Nazi statements and actions.

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They commissioned an assessment of the situation from Albert Hartl, a former Catholic priest, who warned that the Catholic Church would prove a serious threat to the Third Reich.

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“The Catholic Church fundamentally claims for itself the right to depose heads of state,” Hartl wrote, “and down to the present time it has also achieved this claim several times.” This statement seemed to embolden disaffected German officers who were seeking assistance to overthrow Hitler.

In 1938, several high-ranking German officers began turning against Hitler, for fear he would lead the country into a devastating war. One of these, General Ludwig Beck, was joined in this endeavor by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr (Germany’s intelligence agency), and his deputy, Colonel Hans Oster.

 

After the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, the German military conspirators sought to reach out to their adversaries, especially the British, to seek aid in overthrowing Hitler. In order to do this, they needed a person who could serve as an intermediary and vouch for their integrity, and so they approached Pius XII, who was highly regarded in Britain.

They asked the pope’s top assistants to ask Pius one critical question: Would he be willing to contact the British government and receive guarantees that it would back the German Resistance if Hitler was overthrown? Pius XII replied that he was willing do so, declaring, “The German Opposition must be heard.”

What followed was a series of gripping events, leading to repeated efforts to depose Hitler, all of which were foiled by unexpected turns, deceit, bombs that failed to detonate, and ones that did go off, only to miss their target. In their quest, the anti-Nazi officers received crucial moral and logistical support from Pius XII, as well as from his closest aides.

In the view of Hitler, Catholicism was incompatible with Nazism, as both asked for the whole of a man. Hitler hated Pius and the Church—Pius for his longtime stance against every element of national socialism, and the Church because it (accurately, as it turned out) couldn’t be trusted not to interfere with Nazi plans.

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From the beginning, it was no secret that Hitler hated and mistrusted pretty much everyone, but when he ordered the “liquidation” of the Polish clergy after Germany’s invasion, it shocked even his generals. “The task I give you,” Hitler said to the group, “is a Satanic one … Other people to whom such territories are handed would ask: ‘What would you build?’ I will ask the opposite. I will ask: ‘What did you destroy?’”

The chief of German military intelligence, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, witnessed the order. He already despised Hitler, but enough was enough: Hitler had to go. Canaris had known Pius XII from back in the 1920s, when then-Pacelli was a bare-knuckle Vatican diplomat in Germany. Pacelli, he knew, had three traits necessary to turn an assassination plan into action: realism, discretion, and a dislike of Hitler.

Canaris’s go-between would be a man named Josef Müeller, a lawyer, war hero, and devout Catholic known for representing Jews and opposing the Reich.

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Riebling describes him as “part Oskar Schindler, part Vito Corleone.” Müeller had once survived a personal interrogation by Heinrich Himmler, telling Himmler unapologetically that he had advised the Bavarian prime minister to have Himmler killed. (Word got around of the bold admission, which was a “manly” act, in Himmler’s words.) The SS head tried immediately, though unsuccessfully, to recruit Müeller for the SS, which needed men like him. When that didn’t work, out of apparent sheer admiration, he let the lawyer go. This made Müeller somewhat of a legend even among Hitler loyalists.

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Müeller’s law office was a clearinghouse of information for the Vatican, where the lawyer was well-connected. Because of Müeller’s position in society both as a scholar and war hero, he was able to build a spy network among “army, college, and law-school friends with access to Nazi officials—a community of the well-informed, who worked in newspapers, banks, and even … the SS itself.

German military intelligence knew of Müeller’s work with the pope, and brought him in for questioning. They first tried to recruit him, and when Müeller refused, they raised the stakes by admitting the unutterable: They didn’t want him to spy for Hitler, but for the oppositereason. “We even hope that someday you will be part of the leadership of this headquarters. The leadership of this Abwehr headquarters is, at the same time, the headquarters of the German military opposition to Hitler.”

He informed the Vatican of all this. Sensing the gravity of the plot brewing, the Vatican introduced to the German lawyer the concept of Disciplina Arcani—the “way of secrecy,” a doctrine established not long after the crucifixion of Jesus. “The faith at first survived only as a clandestine movement in Rome,” Riebling writes. “For three centuries, until Christianity became Rome’s religion, the Church concealed baptism and confirmation, the Our Father, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist, the creeds and Scriptures—not only from heathens, but even from converts to the faith, who, as one later Church authority explained, ‘might be spies wishing to be instructed only that they might betray.’” This wasn’t an unreasonable precaution. All of the first popes were killed in ways that might only be described as gruesome, and over the centuries, 137 popes were driven from the city of Rome, dozens slain on Peter’s Chair.

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The Abwehr established a cover for Müeller. Officially, he was to be a German operative using his contacts with the Vatican to spy on the Italians. His job would be to pose as a conspirator and sound out the Italian pacifists, who might cause Mussolini to go wobbly. He would even file reports for the Reich. “To all bureaucratic appearances, Müeller would advance the war effort by pretending to talk peace [with the Italians],” Riebling writes. “But he would only be pretending to be pretending. He would actually be the plotter he was pretending to be. He would be a plotter, covered as a spy, covered as a plotter. He would do a kind of triple back flip without moving a muscle.”

German intelligence presented Müeller with a dossier of Nazi atrocities in Poland, asking him to present it to the pope. “No one could more discreetly and credibly link Hitler’s internal and external enemies than Pius. As perhaps the most prestigious figure in Europe, above party pressures, he had the greatest advantage a ruler could possess: he was the one trusted power amid powers nobody could trust.” The pope could broker peace and convince Germany’s foreign enemies that a German resistance existed and could be trusted.

The Church is not philosophically opposed to “tyrannicide.” Writes Riebling, “over the centuries, Catholic theologians had developed a nuanced doctrine of tyrannicide, covering virtually every conceivable context.” Political violence was not allowed, of course, but if the assassination of a tyrant, among other things, promised to improve conditions in subjugated nations while not sparking a civil war, and if peaceful means were exhausted, then yes, go to it.

Pius began working in earnest with the German resistance, quickly bringing the British into the plot. (The pope’s codename among the resistance was The Chief.) He harried the British empire to accept a “just peace” for Germany and to maintain strict secrecy over the plotter’s doings; if word got out, good men would be sent to the gallows. The Vatican even put this in writing. Neville Chamberlain thus issued guidance to be relayed to the pope: “[Great Britain] would be willing to discuss any conditions asked for if convinced that business was meant.”

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Catholic religious orders soon mobilized—especially the militaristic Jesuit and Dominican orders. They were doubly useful to the pope in that they did not report to local bishops, who might be found out or susceptible to Nazi pressure, but to order heads, who in turn reported directly to the pope.

For the expansiveness of the conspiracy to kill him, however, and the enthusiasm to see him dead, Hitler had “the luck of the devil” for surviving repeated assassination attempts and plans. He canceled speeches without knowing that positioned snipers were intended to take him out. He missed parades where bombers were set to blow him to pieces. Meanwhile, the longer it took for plotters to act, the less patience for such an act there was on the outside. Winston Churchill, upon becoming prime minister, put no faith in “decent Germans” acting to take out Hitler, and put little faith in the pope’s doings. It would be full scale war. Pearl Harbor later brought American patience to an end, and the United States into the conflict.

Plotters attempted again to kill Hitler, first by blowing up his plane (the bomb didn’t go off) and then attempting to kill him with a suicide bomb (the would-be assassin set the bomb for 10 minutes; Hitler left the area in three). A bomb sure to vaporize Hitler was brought for use during a secret meeting with the tyrant in his bunker. For no reason at all, however, Hitler changed venues to a cabin in the woods. When the bomb went off—only meters away from Hitler—those around him died, though Hitler escaped with only minor injuries. Hitler later speculated that he was immortal; in fact, he was spared because unlike a room in a sealed bunker, the cabin could not contain the blast. The fire and pressure instead blew through a nearby wall.

During all this, the SS zeroed in on the growing conspiracy against the Führer. Eventually, a member of German military intelligence broke, and he revealed the names of plotters involved. Müeller was placed under arrest, and his handler questioned. Worst of all, the conditions necessary for the German military to kill Hitler were discovered—printed on Vatican letterhead.

After the arrest of Mussolini on July 2, 1943, Hitler vowed revenge against the pope, and to have him kidnapped or killed.

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The pope and Vatican officials had worked feverishly to orchestrate a coup against Mussolini, connecting enemy forces internal and external, just as had been planned for Germany. In retaliation, Hitler ordered a division of paratroopers to the borders of St. Peter’s Square. “On one side stood German soldiers in black boots and steel helmets, with carbines on their shoulders and Lugers on their hips,” Riebling writes. “On the other side were the Pope’s Swiss Guards, in ruffled tunics and plumed hats, holding medieval pikes in white gloves.” (This was not a case of bringing a knife to a gunfight; the Swiss Guard were also known to carry concealed machine guns.)

For his part, Hitler was ready to get things started. “I’ll go right into the Vatican,” he raved. “Do you think the Vatican embarrasses me? We’ll take that over right away. For one thing, the entire diplomatic corps are in there. It’s all the same to me. That rabble is in there. We’ll get that bunch of swine out of there … Later we can make apologies.”

His advisors apparently talked him out of an immediate invasion, though the following month, he summoned Karl Wolff, commander of the SS in Germany for a job of “world historical importance.” Wolff wrote at the time, “He wanted a study made of how troops could occupy the Vatican, secure the archives, and remove the pope, together with the Curia, so that they could not fall into Allied hands … Hitler would then decide whether to bring these Catholic dignitaries to Germany or intern them in neutral Liechtenstein.”

Wolff discouraged the plan, warning that if the pope resisted, he might have to be killed. Hitler didn’t mind, and ordered that plans be drawn up. Any chance at its execution, however, ended when the Allies liberated Italy.

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In the end, of course, Hitler died by his own hand, but not before the SS systematically tracked down the German resistance, whose members were given the ultimate sentence. The SS interrogated them, tortured them, and sent them to concentration camps for extermination. Some were subjected to show trials before being publicly executed. Josef Müeller managed to survive multiple death sentences through happenstance, paperwork problems, and well-timed favors from well-placed allies. In the war’s aftermath, he would help found the Christian Democratic Union political party and credit the pope’s action and restraint for saving not only thousands of Catholics, but also thousands of Jews, and the resistance itself. It was the Vatican’s agents and allies who were so successful in everything from finding and leaking Hitler’s plans for German invasion of Belgium, to helping orchestrate multiple attempts on the tyrant’s life. And, as Church of Spies explains in extraordinary and well-documented detail, it all happened because Pope Pius XII had no qualms with killing the evilest man in the world.

 

Titus Brandsma-Catholic Priest and WW2 Martyr

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Although a lot of Catholic clergy men,and other Christian ministers, turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, there were still a great number of them who couldn’t remain silent and paid the ultimate price for this.

Titus Brandsma was one of those brave men who stood up for what they believed in and were killed for it.

Titus Brandsma, O.Carm., was a Dutch Carmelite friar, Catholic priest and professor of philosophy. Brandsma was vehemently opposed to Nazi ideology and spoke out against it many times before the Second World War. He was imprisoned in the infamous Dachau concentration camp, where he died. He has been beatified by the Catholic Church as a martyr of the faith.

The life of Titus Brandsma began in the quiet countryside of Friesland, Holland, where he was born on February 23, 1881, and ended some sixty years later on July 26, 1942, in the notorious hospital of the Dachau concentration camp.

He was born Anno Sjoerd Brandsma to Titus Brandsma (died 1920) and his wife Tjitsje Postma (died 1933) at Oegeklooster, near Hartwerd, in the Province of Friesland, in 1881.His parents, who ran a small dairy farm,

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were devout and committed Catholics, a minority in a predominantly-Calvinist region.

With the exception of one daughter, all of their children entered religious orders.

As a young boy, Brandsma did his secondary studies in the town of Megen, at a Franciscan-run minor seminary for boys considering a priestly or religious vocation.
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Brandsma entered the novitiate of the Carmelite friars in Boxmeer on 17 September 1898, where he took the religious name Titus (in honor of his father) by which he is now known, and professed his first vows in October 1899.

Ordained a priest in 1905, Brandsma was knowledgeable in Carmelite mysticism and was awarded a doctorate of philosophy at Rome in 1909. He then taught in various schools in the Netherlands. From 1916 on, he initiated and led a project to translate the works of St. Teresa of Ávila into Dutch.

In 1921 Brandsma worked to resolve a controversy concerning Belgian artist Albert Servaes’ depiction of the Stations of the Cross. From this came his series of meditations on each of the 14 stations.

One of the founders of the Catholic University of Nijmegen (now Radboud University), Brandsma became a professor of philosophy and the history of mysticism at the school in 1923. He later served as Rector Magnificus. He was noted for his constant availability to everyone, rather than for his scholarly work as a professor.

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Brandsma also worked as a journalist and was the ecclesiastical adviser to Catholic journalists by 1935.

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That same year he did a lecture tour of the United States, speaking at various institutions of his Order.

Just before this lecture tour, Archbishop De Jong of Utrecht appointed Fr. Titus as spiritual advisor to the staff members of the more than thirty Catholic newspapers in Holland; around the same time, the policies of Adolf Hitler, the new German Chancellor, began to become know  in the Netherlands, and were openly criticized by Titus in his teaching and in the press

After the invasion of the Netherlands by the Third Reich in May 1940, it was Brandsma’s fight against the spread of Nazi ideology and for educational and press freedom that brought him to the attention of the Nazis. In January 1942 he undertook to deliver by hand a letter from the Conference of Dutch Bishops to the editors of Catholic newspapers in which the bishops ordered them not to print official Nazi documents, as was required under a new law by the German occupiers. He had visited 14 editors before being arrested on the 19th of that month at the Boxmeer monastery.

After his arrest in January 1942, Titus was first imprisoned in the Dutch penitentiary in Scheveningen .which had been taken over by the Nazis.

In cell #577 of Scheveningen penitentiary, Titus composed a poem on solitude and his experience of the presence of God that became famous in the Netherlands.. …“Never were you, 0 Lord, so near.. .“ This is Titus’ original copy written February 12-13, 1942.

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On March 20, 1942, Titus and others were brought from prison at Scheveningen to the Dutch concentration camp at Amersfoort. While there, Titus was given this rosary by a fellow prisoner. There are different stories about it, and there seems to have been more than one such rosary. It seems that the maker of this gift to Titus was himself executed later on. His name was Piet (Peter) Holfsloot.

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After being held prisoner in Scheveningen, Amersfoort, and Cleves, Brandsma was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp, arriving there on 19 June. His health quickly gave way, and he was transferred to the camp hospital. He died on 26 July 1942, from a lethal injection administered by a nurseof the Allgemeine SS, as part of their program of medical experimentation on the prisoners

A grave marker at Dachau in the background are the prisoner barracks whereTitus was executed by lethal injection July 26, 1942 and cremated three days later.

Below are the death certificates and notification issued after his death.

Brandsma is honored as a martyr within the Roman Catholic Church. He was beatified in November 1985 by Pope John Paul II. His feast day is observed within the Carmelite Order on 27 July.

In 2005 Brandsma was chosen by the inhabitants of Nijmegen as the greatest citizen to have lived there. A memorial church now stands in the city dedicated to him.

Brandsma’s studies on mysticism was the basis for the establishment in 1968 of the Titus Brandsma Institute in Nijmegen, dedicated to the study of spirituality. It is a collaboration between the Dutch Carmelite friars and Radboud University Nijmegen.

In his biography of Brandsma, The Man behind the Myth, Dutch journalist Ton Crijnen claims that Brandsma combined some vanity, a short tempered character, extreme energy, political simpleness, true charity, unpretentious piety, thorough decisiveness and great personal courage. His ideas were very much those of his own age and modern as well. He offset contemporary Catholicism’s negative theological opinion about Judaism with a strong disaffection for any kind of Antisemitism in Hitler’s Germany. Brandsma was honoured by the city of Dachau with a street adjoining the former camp, albeit one of the narrowest streets in the town.

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