War resister Jagerstatter a martyr, Pope rules

As Malta gets its first saint, the catechist priest Dun Gorg Preca, Pope Benedict has approved recognition of martyrdom for beheaded Austrian war resister Franz Jagerstatter who refused to serve in Hitler's army.

The pope Friday authorised a Vatican decree recognizing Jagerstatter's 1943 death as martyrdom, PR Inside reports.

Ten years ago, a Berlin court exonerated Jagerstatter, who was drafted after the annexation of his native Austria, for refusing to serve in the Nazi army. His request to be excused from regular army service, and to do non-combat duty, had been denied, and he was ordered executed for treason.

Jagerstatter had been the only person in his village to vote against the creation of a so-called "Greater Germany" shortly after Austria was annexed in 1938.

Benedict on Friday also declared martyrs 188 Japanese who were decapitated, burned at the stake or scalded to death in volcanic hot springs in the early 1700s. Among them was a Jesuit priest, Peter Kibe, a convert to Christianity.

The pope also approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Antonio Rosmini, an Italian priest and philosopher who died in 1855 and whose writings were once condemned by the Vatican.

But in 2001, the then-head of the Vatican's watchdog office for doctrinal errors, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, ruled the concerns over his writings were outdated.

Rosmini developed a philosophical system that incorporated political and social ideas with Roman Catholicism. The approval of a miracle opens the way for Rosmini's beatification, the last formal step before sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Malta's first saint

Meanwhile, in front of 5,000 Maltese pilgrims in Rome yesterday, Pope Benedict also canonised Dun Gorg Preca, the first native born saint for the Mediterranean island country.

Archbishop Msgr Paul Cremona, Archbishop Emeritus Msgr Guzeppi Merieca, and Gozo Bishop Msgr Mario Grech were amongst those who concelebrated together with the Pontiff.

Besides Dun Gorg, the Pope also canonised three other saints: Simon of Lipnica, Poland, a Franciscan who lived in the 1400s and was famous for his preaching; Karel van Sint Andries Houben, a 19th-century Dutch Passionist priest, known particularly for his ministry as a confessor; and Marie Eugenie de Jesus Milleret, the Frenchwoman who founded the Religious of the Assumption.

Addressing the Maltese pilgrims in their own language at the end of the ceremony, the Pope said that Gorge Preca was the second father in faith after Saint Paul, adding that San Gorg always prayed so that the Maltese would be true friends of the Gospel.

During the homily, the Pope had described Dun Gorg as an example not only through his preachings and scriptures, but also and more importantly through his own life.

Dun Gorg (Fr George), as he was affectionately known, created the Society of Christian Doctrine, also known as MUSEUM, despite initially strong opposition from the local Church hierarchy.

MUSEUM now has branches in six other countries - including Australia, Britain and Peru - and this year celebrates its first centenary.

George Preca was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II, along with two 19th century Maltese, a Benedictine nun and a cleric, during the late pope's second visit to Malta, in May 2001.

San Gorg Preca: the first Maltese Saint (Di-ve, 4/6/07)
New Maltese saint a visionary (Catholic Leader, 3/6/07)
Dun Gorg canonisation (Times of Malta, 3/6/07)
Pope canonises two, beatifies 327 (The Australian, 3/6/07)
Pope recognizes martyrdom of Austrian beheaded by Nazis, Jesuit in Japan (PR Inside, 3/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Blessed George Preca (Zenit, 3/6/07)
George Preca (Wikipedia)
Franz Jagerstatter (Wikipedia)
Society of Christian Doctrine Australia
Five new saints for 2007 (Kairos, 26/2/07)

Malta to get its first saint (CathNews, 28/2/07)

Pope to canonise new Irish Saint (RTE Ireland, 31/5/07)

4 Jun 2007