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Pope recognises martyrs who died at the hands of communist and fascist regimes

Pope FrancisĀ (AP)

An Italian priest who died in a Nazi concentration camp and two victims of Soviet-bloc regimes during the Cold War were among those recognised as martyrs by Pope Francis.

According to a statement released by the Vatican, the Pope authorised decrees stating that Franciscan Father Giuseppe Girotti, an opponent of Italy’s fascist government who died at Dachau in 1945, was killed “in hatred of the faith.”

Pope Francis likewise recognised the martyrdom of Romanian Father Vladimir Ghika and Hungarian Salesian Brother Stephen Sandor, who were killed by their country’s communist regimes, in 1954 and 1953, respectively. The decrees prepare the way for the martyrs’ beatification, probably later this year.

Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for Saints’ Causes to promulgate equivalent decrees for Rolando Rivi, an Italian seminarian killed by communist partisans in 1945, during the last days of World War II; and for 58 persons, including the Bishop of Jaen, killed between 1936 and 1938 during the Spanish Civil War.

The Church normally requires a miracle to be attributed to the intercession of a deceased Catholic before he or she may be beatified, but that requirement does not apply to recognised martyrs. A miracle is required before any blessed may be canonised.

Also on March 27, Pope Francis recognised a miracle attributed to German Sister Maria Teresa Bonzel, founder of the Sisters of St Francis of Perpetual Adoration, who died in 1905.

Among the seven whom the Pope recognised for their “heroic virtues” were Mexican Father Moses Lira Serafin, founder of the Missionaries of Charity of Mary Immaculate, who died in 1950; and Oblate Brother Anthony Kowalczyk, who was born in Poland but died in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1947. Brother Kowalczyk spent the last three-and-a-half decades of his life working as a blacksmith and gardener at a frontier school in western Canada.

Now recognised as “venerable,” each is eligible for beatification if a miracle can be attributed to his intercession.