Italian future saint turns up in U.S. Catholic’s family tree

.- A woman in Biloxi was surprised and delighted to discover that her Italian ancestor, who was unknown to her until recently, is on the road to sainthood. Regina Palatucci Hines, a certified genealogical record specialist, recounted in the Biloxi Sun Herald last weekend how she discovered a connection to a future saint in her family tree.

Her research began after she received a pamphlet from her ancestral town in Italy, which described the life of Giovanni Palatucci, a World War II martyr. Knowing that she had no direct ancestors named Palatucci (a few people by that name had married siblings of her grandparents over the years) she began an Internet search.

She learned that Giovanni Palatucci was born in Montella, Italy, on May 31, 1909, into a devout, well-to-do Catholic family. He studied law at the University of Turin but decided to be a police officer. Hines recounted that in 1938, the 29-year-old Palatucci was appointed police commissioner in Fiume, Italy, which is now part of Yugoslavia.

It was during the Second World War and thousands of Jews were streaming into the area, seeking refuge from the persecution of the Nazis.

Unconcerned about the danger involved, Palatucci helped them by placing them in private homes, convents or monasteries throughout Italy. He worked mostly alone, but was assisted by his uncles, Bishop Giovanni Maria Palatucci and Alfonso and Antonio Palatucci, both Franciscan brothers.

In late 1944, his work was discovered but not before he had helped about 6,000 Jews escape the concentration camps. He was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Dachau, where was tortured and died Feb. 10, 1945, just days before the liberation.

“In the past several years, his memory has become celebrated in both Italy and Israel, where streets and plazas have been named for him,” Hines reported. “His name was also inscribed in ‘The Book of Righteous Gentiles’.”

Hines made the connection to her family tree after consulting civil records. In a few hours, she learned that Palatucci's great-grandmother was the sister of her third great-grandmother on her paternal grandfather's side, which made her father and Palatucci third cousins.

Palatucci's cause for canonization was completed and presented to the Vatican's Committee for his beatification in February 2004.

Palatucci never married. Had he lived, today would have been his 95th birthday.

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April 24, 2014

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