Vatican City, May 5, 2021 / 09:10 am
A cycling champion and devout Catholic who helped to save more than 800 Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II was remembered in Assisi Wednesday on the 21st anniversary of his death.
Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi led the singing of the Marian antiphon “Regina Coeli” at 12pm local time on May 5 in Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, now housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943 -1944, to remember the man declared “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in 2013.
“Bartali was a great witness, [whose example] helps us to become more Christian, more human…” Sorrentino said. Even in the difficulties of the present time, “Bartali gives us a hand, with his example, his courage, and his faith.”
During World War II, Gino Bartali used his position as a famous road cycling champion to support the Italian Resistance and help, with others, to save the lives of more than 800 Italian Jews.
Using cycling training as a cover, Bartali transported photographs and forged documents between Florence and Franciscan convents in the surrounding regions where Jews were hidden. He also carried messages and documents for the Italian Resistance.
Bartali also assisted the Assisi Network, an underground network of Catholic clergy who hid Jews in convents and monasteries during World War II, by taking Jews from the hiding places to the Swiss Alps in a wagon with a secret compartment attached to his bicycle. If he was stopped, he said that the wagon was for training.
The cyclist, who twice won the Tour de France, also personally hid a Jewish family in his cellar, saving their lives, according to one survivor.