CARPI, Italy, JUNE 1, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The cause of beatification is under way for Odoardo Focherini, who helped to save 105 Jews from Nazi deportation during World War II.
Focherini (1907-1944) was administrative director of the Italian newspaper Avvenire, a post he filled from 1937 onward. At the time, the newspaper’s director was Raimondo Manzini, author of fiery debates against Fascism.
In 1938, Focherini hired Jewish journalist Giacomo Lampronti for Avvenire, who had been fired from his previous job as a result of the racial laws. Lampronti was also hired, in 1942, at the request of Manzini, to whom Cardinal Pietro Boetto of Genoa had entrusted, for their protection, a number of Polish Jews traveling in an International Red Cross train.
From October 1943 onward, Focherini’s main occupation was to save Jews from deportation. As anti-Jewish laws became more severe, and racial deportations got under way, Focherini organized, with the cooperation of other people, an efficient network for the expatriation to Switzerland of more than 100 Jews.
Focherini’s method was to make contact with families, obtain documents from the synagogues, seek financial support, and provide false documentation to endangered Jews.
On March 11, 1944, Focherini was arrested by the Nazis in a hospital while he was caring for a sick Jew. Isolated in the Flossenbürg camp, Focherini was later sent to the Hersbruck camp, where inmates worked from 3:30 a.m. until the afternoon. Whoever could not keep pace was sent to the crematory.
Suffering from an untreated leg wound, Focherini died at 37 on Dec. 27, 1944.
Before dying, he dictated a letter to a friend named Olivelli: “My seven children … I would like to see them before dying. … However, O Lord, accept this sacrifice also and You protect them, together with my wife, my parents, and all my loved ones.”
He added: “I state that I die in the most pure Roman, apostolic, Catholic faith, and in full submission to the Will of God, offering my life in holocaust for my diocese, for Catholic Action, for the Pope, and for the return of peace to the world.”
“I beg you to tell my wife that I have always been faithful to her, that she has always been in my thoughts, and that I have always loved her intensely,” he said.
In his memory, the Union of Jewish Communities in Italy gave him a golden medal in 1955. Yad Vashem, the Israeli national authority for the Remembrance of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, proclaimed him “Righteous Among the Nations.”
The cause of beatification was introduced Saturday in the Diocese of Carpi.