Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of a married couple with seven children who were killed by the Nazis for hiding a Jewish family in their home in Poland.
The pope signed on Dec. 17 a decree on the martyrdom of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who were executed along with all their children in 1944.
The World Holocaust Remembrance Center has honored the couple as Righteous Among the Nations for the sacrifice of their lives. With the recognition of their martyrdom by the pope, the Polish couple can now be beatified with the couple’s seven children (including one unborn).
Early on March 24, 1944, a Nazi patrol surrounded the home of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma on the outskirts of the village of Markowa in southeast Poland. They discovered eight Jewish people who had found refuge on the Ulma farm and executed them.
The Nazi police then killed Wiktoria, who was seven months pregnant, and Józef. As children began to scream at the sight of their murdered parents, the Nazis shot them too: Stanisława, age 8, Barbara, 7, Władysław, 6, Franciszek, 4, Antoni, 3, and Maria, 2.
Pope Francis signed the decree on their martyrdom on his 86th birthday, advancing 15 other causes for canonization, including recognizing the heroic virtue of Matteo Ricci, a well-known 17th-century Jesuit missionary in China.