Poland: Celebration of the 80th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Edith Stein

Patroness Saint of Europe

PhotoCredit: Archdiocese of Krakow_Flickr
PhotoCredit: Archdiocese of Krakow_Flickr

Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, took part in ceremonies commemorating the 80th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) in Oswiecim (Auschwitz). The Breslau-born Catholic of Jewish descent was murdered in the Auschwitz-Birkenau German death camp on August 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II declared her a saint and co-patroness of Europe.

“Let us now set out on the path that St. Edith Stein traveled as the last in her life, right here in Auschwitz-Birkenau, eighty years ago. May our unified prayer be an important contribution to building a truly fraternal society in Europe, which today, is stricken by a cruel war in Ukraine, caused by a ruthless aggressor which is Russia,” said Metropolitan Archbishop Jędraszewski of Krakow as he began the prayer route, which led along the main railroad ramp inside the former camp.

The archbishop of Krakow also referred to the person of the Polish martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, who volunteered to offer his life in place of a distraught father of a family at Auschwitz-Birkenau in late July 1941. He was killed by phenol injection on August 14, 1941.

PhotoCredit: Archdiocese of Krakow_Flickr
PhotoCredit: Archdiocese of Krakow_Flickr

Probably because of the similarity of their fates, (…) John Paul II said: »I was always convinced that these two martyrs of Auschwitz together would lead us into the future: Maximilian Mary Kolbe and Edith Stein — St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross«,” Archbishop Jedraszewski stressed.

During the ceremony, a letter from Bishop Bertram Meier of Augsburg was read, which stated: “What a man without God and acting against God is capable of, we see in this place. What a man who opens himself to God is capable of, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross shows us, and alongside her all those who were and are bearers of hope in inhuman conditions.” The bishop also stressed the importance of Poles and Germans participating together in the ceremony.

Prayer for peace at the Center for Dialogue and Prayer and Mass presided over by Cardinal Czerny at the Carmelite Sisters Convent at Auschwitz were scheduled for the afternoon.

Edith Stein was born on October 12, 1891, in Breslau in a Jewish family. At the age of 30, she converted to Catholicism. After 12 years, she became a Carmelite nun under the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Just a week after her arrest, she was murdered in the gas chamber at Birkenau on August 9, 1942.

Teresa Benedicta is the first Jewish woman to be declared a saint after converting to Catholicism. At the turn of the millennium, John Paul II declared her co-patroness of Europe.