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 CNS Story:

BEATIFY-HIRSCHFELDER Sep-20-2010 (310 words) xxxi

Martyred German priest who died at Dachau beatified at Mass

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A martyred German priest who died at the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau was praised for his courage and faith in God during a beatification Mass in Munster, Germany.

Blessed Gerhard Hirschfelder's bravery in denouncing the Nazi regime was not a sign of "recklessness," but of "the power of faith," German Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne said in his homily Sept. 19.

Even during his arrest and imprisonment, the young priest found strength by rejoicing in the Lord, the cardinal said, and his closeness to Christ "filled him with humble confidence" and hope.

Born in 1907 in Glatz, Germany, Blessed Hirschfelder grew up, studied and worked in an area known as Silesia -- originally a Polish territory that became part of Bohemia, Austria, Prussia and Germany after the 14th century. Some 4,000 people from Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic attended the beatification ceremony in the Munster cathedral.

He was ordained a priest in 1932, the year before Adolf Hitler came to power. During his work with youth, Blessed Hirschfelder urged young people to avoid being influenced by Nazi propaganda and to not join the Hitler Youth, according to biographies published by Vatican Radio and the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

Even though Nazi authorities denounced him as an opponent to the regime, Blessed Hirschfelder continued to criticize the Nazi dictatorship in his homilies.

In one sermon in 1941, he said, "He who tears from the heart of young people their faith in Christ is a criminal," according to the Vatican newspaper. Blessed Hirschfelder was arrested a few days later and sent to Dachau, where he died of hunger and illness in 1942 at the age of 35.

Pope Benedict XVI said Sept. 13 that Blessed Hirschfelder was just one of a number of beatifications this year of priests who were martyred during the Nazi regime.


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