Israel Declares German Cardinal Höffner "Righteous"

For Saving Jews During World War II

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COLOGNE, Germany, NOV. 3, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The late Cardinal Joseph Höffner was conferred the honor of “Righteous Among the Nations” by the state of Israel, for having saved Jewish lives during World War II.

The Cologne Archdiocese, which the cardinal led until 1987, announced the award. The award is the highest conferred by Israel on non-Jews.

The Yad Vashem award was conferred on the cardinal and on his sister, Helene Hesseler-Höffner, for having saved a little Jewish girl from Nazi persecution.

Beginning in March 1943, then Father Höffner and his sister gave secret shelter in the city of Keil to 7-year-old Esther Sara Meyerowitz of Berlin.

The girl was first received in the parish under the name Christa Koch. After Father Höffner was appointed pastor in 1943, he entrusted the girl to the family of farmer Wilhelm Hechler.

That same year the priest and his sister took in for six months Edith Nowak, a Jew, and her husband, an evangelical.

Born in 1906, Joseph Höffner was one of the greatest experts of his time on Church social doctrine. He was founder, director and faculty member of the Institute of Christian Social Sciences in Munich from 1951-1961. He was also scientific adviser to three Ministries of the Federal Republic of Germany.

As bishop of Munster, he attended the Second Vatican Council. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Cologne in January 1969. On Feb. 24, 1969, he was appointed archbishop.

Paul VI made him a cardinal that same year. He was president of the German episcopal conference from 1976 to 1987. Cardinal Höffner resigned from the pastoral government of the Cologne Archdiocese in September 1987 and died a month later.

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