WWII "Martyr of Reconciliation" to Be Beatified

Carmelite Priest Aimed to Be Love, Reveal Love, Give Love

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By Carmen Elena Villa

WURZBURG, Germany, MAY 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Carmelite Father Georg Häfner never had any intention to confront the Nazi regime head-on. But his quiet, daily fidelity to his priestly ministry landed him in Dachau. This Sunday he will be beatified.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, will represent the Pope at the beatification ceremony in Wurzburg.

“We do not want to condemn a human being, or sow rancor against anyone. Rather, we want to be good to all,” said the priest before being killed in August 1942.

Georg Häfner was born in Wurzburg in 1900. At the end of World War I, after having done his military service for a year, he began to study theology and became a member of a Catholic student association.

Growing up in the shadows of a Carmelite monastery and participating in Mass as an altar server nourished the seed of his vocation. He was ordained a priest in 1924.

“His pastoral activities coincided with the period of the Nationalist dictatorship,” noted Andrea Ambrossi, the postulator of his cause, in a statement to ZENIT.

In 1938 Father Häfner was visited by the bishop of his diocese, who was very pleased with the catechesis the priest imparted and noted in his report the good religious formation of the children of the parish.

“There are close to 700 faithful who receive Holy Communion and this is a reason for joy,” the bishop wrote.

Father Häfner “dedicated himself seriously to his obligations and duties,” Ambrossi said. “But it was inevitable that his pastoral zeal would put him in conflict with the Nationalists, to the point that, a priest as good and truly available to all as he was, became a political ‘enemy.'”

The religious priest’s pastoral initiatives annoyed the Nazi regime. On Oct. 3, 1941, he was detained briefly, and on the 31st of the same month, arrested and taken to Dachau concentration camp, where he was branded with the number 28 876.

Ambrossi observed that Father Häfner did not have “the intention to combat head-on the National Socialist regime.”

“But,” he continued, “the fact is that the complete observance of his priestly ministry led him inevitably to become a victim of the convictions of his conscience, that is, of his pastoral obligations.”

Even in the concentration camp, Father Häfner said that in life there could be no enemies.

His aim was “to be love, to reveal love, to give love, so that men will have life and have it in abundance,” the postulator said.

The Carmelite in Dachau showed a total abandonment to God, Ambrossi affirmed, such that “we are truly before a martyr of reconciliation, a priest soaked in a profound love of the cross, a most credible witness of the faith.”

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