VATICAN CITY, JUNE 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of an Italian Catholic who was murdered by Nazis after saving the lives of numerous Jews.
The Pope said that Odoardo Focherini is “an unforgettable model of a virtuous Christian husband whose example continues to speak to the Church today,” in a message sent to the Diocese of Carpi through Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Focherini died in the concentration camp of Hersbruck on Dec. 27, 1944. The papal message commemorates the anniversary of his birth, June 6, 1907.
The Holy Father “wishes that this significant occasion serve to remember the luminous message and the courageous witness to the Gospel of a generous layman who, imitating Christ, gave himself unceasingly for the salvation of his brethren,” the message said.
Focherini was the manager of the newspaper L’Avvenire d’Italia. He was married and had seven children.
In 1942, the director of the newspaper asked him to help some Polish Jews that had come to Italy on a Red Cross train, and had been sent to Bologna by Archbishop Pietro Boetto of Genoa.
Focherini thus began an intense campaign in favor of Jews. He organized a network to expatriate Jews to Switzerland and thus saved the lives of at least 105 people.
On March 11, 1944, Focherini visited Enrico Donati at Ramazzini Hospital in Carpi to plan the latter’s escape to Switzerland using the network. After the visit, Focherini was arrested.
He had just one interrogation, and was accused of writing a letter in which he stated that he was helping Jews “not for money, but out of pure Christian charity.”
He was sent to a concentration camp where he died nine months later at the age of 37.
Because of his network, which endured two years, the Union of Jewish Communities in Italy awarded him a golden medal in 1955. And Yad Vashem proclaimed him Righteous Among the Nations in 1969.
His cause for canonization began in 1996.
He will be remembered on Saturday at a Mass in Carpi. Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, will attend.