Pope Martyrs Austrian Beheaded by Nazis
Jun 2, 8:44 AM (ET)
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI approved recognition of martyrdom for an Austrian who was beheaded by the Nazis for refusing to serve in Hitler's army, a step toward possible sainthood.
Ten years ago, a Berlin court posthumously exonerated Franz Jaegerstaetter, who was drafted after Germany annexed his native Austria, for refusing to serve in the Nazi army. His request to be excused from regular army service had been denied, and he was ordered executed for treason.
Jaegerstaetter 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. He was beheaded in 1943.
Benedict also approved martyrdom Friday for 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 whose work as a missionary was opposed by authorities.
He and the other Japanese died for refusing to renounce their faith.
The pope also approved a miracle attributed to Antonio Rosmini, an Italian priest and philosopher who died in 1855 and whose writings were once condemned by the Vatican. 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office for doctrinal errors, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, ruled the concerns over his writings were outdated.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.
Being declared a martyr, which means the men died for the church, eliminates the requirement of a miracle to be beatified. However, after beatification, martyrs need to have a miracle confirmed if they are to become saints.
The complicated processes of beatification and canonization usually takes decades and sometimes lasts centuries.