Ryszard Gromadzki talks to Father Witold Burda, initiator of the process of beatification and canonization of the Ulma family, a Polish family murdered by the Germans in 1944 for hiding Jews.
Interview originally published in Polish in the 7 August 2023 issue of the Polish weekly Do Rzeczy and translated into English on Sovereignty.pl. To see the full version in English on Sovereignty.pl, click here.
Ryszard Gromadzki: The process leading to the beatification of the Ulma family is a unique one. For the first time, the Church is raising to the altar an entire family, one that was murdered by the Germans for providing refuge to Jews. Also for the first time, an unborn child will be among the blessed…
Father dr. Witold Burda: Certainly, the Ulma family’s beatification process is in many respects very special and original, in the good meaning of that word. The significance and novelty of this beatification lie primarily in the fact that it concerns an entire family. The Church has previously seen cases of couples being beatified together, such as the parents of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, or the Italian husband and wife Luigi Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini. Now, a whole family will be beatified, including both parents and children – even a child still in the mother’s womb – all of whom suffered a martyr’s death. A beautiful definition of martyrdom was given by cardinal Semeraro, who is to announce the beatification of the Ulma family on behalf of Pope Francis: “In dying for faith in Christ, the parents and children achieved a ‘pinnacle of holiness.’” Let us recall here one of the key arguments for acknowledging the martyrdom of the children of Józef and Wiktoria. It concerns the beautiful tradition related to the Holy Innocents, the children murdered on the order of King Herod, as poignantly described by St. Matthew in the second chapter of his Gospel. Notice that even though those children were not aware of events and did not decide for themselves to give their lives for Christ, the Church nonetheless honors them as true martyrs. This tradition helps us to understand the death of all of the children of Wiktoria and Józef Ulma as an instance of martyrdom.
Another poignant feature of this story is the shared death of those professing the religion of Moses and followers of Christ. We are joined by faith in one God. That is a very special element of this beatification process. It is pointed out by Professor François-Marie Léthel, one of the consultors of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, in a beautiful reflection that he shared several months ago, indeed on the occasion of the liturgical Feast of the Holy Innocents. However, the most original element of the beatification of the Ulma family is that it includes the beatification of the seventh child, who at the time of the brutal execution at the hands of German gendarmes was still being carried in Wiktoria Ulma’s womb. This child has no name, is of unknown sex, did not come into the world in the natural way, nor was it born to a life of faith in a supernatural way at the moment of holy baptism. For the Church, this is above all a human person, a holy person, who already stands before God and represents within the Church of the praiseworthy and blessed the uncountable number of all children who died before birth, whether through natural causes or abortion.
Cover picture: Wiktoria Ulma with her children, wife of Józef Ulma, Polish World War II heroes killed summarily for hiding Jews in their home, named Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem posthumously. Photo taken by their husband and father Józef Ulma around 1943