In a moving ceremony at the Vatican today (Sunday), Pope Paul raised to the ranks of the blessed a Polish Roman Catholic priest who sacrificed his life for a fellow prisoner in a World War Two concentration camp.
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Background: In a moving ceremony at the Vatican today (Sunday), Pope Paul raised to the ranks of the blessed a Polish Roman Catholic priest who sacrificed his life for a fellow prisoner in a World War Two concentration camp. Some 25,000 people saw the solemn mass in St. Peter's Basilica, including an estimated 4,000 Poles half of whom had travelled from Poland.
The man beatified was Father Maximilian Kolbe. In 1941, he offered himself to die in place of a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp. After three weeks in a starvation cell, he was killed with an injection of carbolic acid. The man he volunteered to save, Francicze Gajowniczek, was present at the beatification ceremony and was presented to the Pope.
SYNOPSIS: St. Peter's, Rome, was a place of pilgrimage for four-thousand Poles on Sunday--half of them travelling direct from poland. The occasion was the beatification of a Polish Roman Catholic priest. He was being raised to the ranks of the blessed by Pope Paul for an act of self-sacrifice during World War Two. Imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941, Father Maximilian Kolbe offered to take the place of a prisoner condemned to death by starvation.
The basilica was filled with some twenty-five thousand people watching Pope Paul conduct the mass--the first occasion in modern times that a Pope has officiated at a beatification ceremony. In an address, Pope Paul spoke of the Nazi are as a horrible, heart-rending age that people wanted to forget. But the sacrifices could not be forgotten. Father Kolbe's sacrifice had been to die after three weeks in the starvation cell, killed by an injection of carbolic acid.
The man he saved from death, former Polish Sergeant Francisze Gajowniczek, was at the ceremony and was presented to the Pope. The Sergeant was one of ten prisoners picked to die of starvation after another inmate had escaped. After Father Kolbe replaced him, the Sergeant went on to survive five and a half years in the camp. Now aged seventy, he lives in East Germany.