Odoardo Focherini will be beatified in the Italian city of Carpi on June 15 for his life of faith and dedication to helping those in need, including 100 Jews he helped escape the Nazis.
“One of the Jews whom he saved said, ‘we are the miracles of Odoardo Focherini,’ and they saw his as their savior and angel,” said Focherini’s grandson, Francesco Manicardi.
“His neighbors weren’t just Jews, but also his family, of which there are now 21 great grandsons,” he added during a June 4 Vatican Radio press conference.
Focherini, an Italian journalist and father of seven children, died at 37-years-old in the Hersbrueck Nazi concentration camp in 1944, after a wound in his leg became infected.
On Saturday, June 15, he will also be beatified, the step before being recognized as a saint, for having managed his work and family life as an exemplary Catholic.
Focherini married his beloved wife Maria Marchesi in 1930, and by 1943 they had seven children.
During those years, Focherini helped organize important diocesan events, such as Eucharistic congresses, and in 1939 he became the managing director of L’Avvenire d’Italia, a Catholic newspaper.
He first started helping Jews flee the Nazi persecution in 1942, but his large-scale effort did not begin until Sept. 8, 1943, when he asked his wife’s permission to help provide false identity cards so that the Jewish refugees could cross the Italian-Swiss border.
Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, who also attended today’s press conference, underlined that the beatification “isn’t a fruit of speculation.”
According to the bishop, Focherini showed “no separation between his spiritual and family life.”
“He is a complete man because work, family, apostolate in the Church have been his path to beatification,” he stated.
“He let himself be transformed by Jesus Christ until he, like him, died,” he said.
The postulator of his cause, Franciscan Father Giovangiuseppe Califano, reported that extensive studies clearly showed that his persecutors acted “in odium fidei,” or “in hatred of the faith.”
“The proofs are those (things) he himself revealed (in his writings): that there was an anti-Catholic tone by his interrogators in his first interrogation,” said the Franciscan.
“There was an intention to suppress a Catholic activist,” said Fr. Califano.
According to the postulator, Focherini never uttered “a word of hatred against his persecutors.”
“We can attribute to him, not only the crown of faith, but also the crown of charity,” Fr. Califano said.
He will be beatified in a Mass held at 9:30 a.m. on June 15 in Carpi. Organizers are expecting 4,000 people and around 20 bishops to attend the ceremony.