Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of a married couple with seven children who were killed by the Nazis for hiding a Jewish family in their home in Poland.

The pope signed on Dec. 17 a decree on the martyrdom of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who were executed along with all their children in 1944.

The World Holocaust Remembrance Center has honored the couple as Righteous Among the Nations for the sacrifice of their lives. With the recognition of their martyrdom by the pope, the Polish couple can now be beatified with the couple’s seven children (including one newborn).

Early on March 24, 1944, a Nazi patrol surrounded the home of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma on the outskirts of the village of Markowa in southeast Poland. They discovered eight Jewish people who had found refuge on the Ulma farm and executed them.

The Nazi police then killed Wiktoria, who was seven months pregnant and gave birth, and Józef. As children began to scream at the sight of their murdered parents, the Nazis shot them too: Stanisława, age 8, Barbara, 7, Władysław, 6, Franciszek, 4, Antoni, 3, and Maria, 2.

Pope Francis signed the decree on their martyrdom on his 86th birthday, advancing 15 other causes for canonization, including recognizing the heroic virtue of Matteo Ricci, a well-known 17th-century Jesuit missionary in China.

The pope also approved the “offering of life” of Franz de Castro Holzwarth, a Brazilian lawyer who was killed at the age of 38 in 1981 when he offered to replace a hostage during a prison riot.

He also recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Jacinto Vera, the first bishop of Montevideo, Uruguay.

In the decree, Pope Francis confirmed the heroic virtue of 13 Servants of God. The following four Catholic priests and one brother were recognized as Venerable:

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  • Father Aleksander Woźny, a diocesan priest of Poznan, Poland, who survived imprisonment in concentration camps in Buchenwald and Dachau (1910–1983)

  • Father Ignacy Posadzy, a priest who co-founded the Society of Christ to serve Polish migrants during World War II and under communist rule (1898–1984)

  • Father Martin Benedict, a Conventual Franciscan friar from Romania (1931–1986)

  • Father Ugo de Blasi, a diocesan priest who served in Lecce, Italy (1918–1982)

  • Brother José Marcos Figueroa, a Jesuit brother in Argentina (1865–1942)

And the following six religious sisters and one consecrated woman were also declared Venerable:

  • Mother Miradio of the Providence of St. Cajetan, foundress of the Congregation of the Poor Daughters of St. Anthony in Italy (1863–1926)

  • Mother Maria Ignazia Isacchi, Italian foundress of the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Asola (1857–1934)

  • Mother Margherita Crispi, foundress of the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters to Divine Love in Italy (1879–1974)

  • Sister Margherita Maria Guaini, Italian foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Jesus the Eternal Priest (1902–1994)

  • Sister Magdalena Aulina Saurina, Spanish foundress of the Secular Institute of the Señoritas Operarias Parroquiales (1897–1956)

  • Sister Teresa Veronesi, a professed nun of the Congregation of the Minime Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows in Italy (1870–1950)

  • Luisa Guidotti Mistrali, an Italian consecrated woman active in the Women’s Medical Missions Association who died while serving in Zimbabwe (1932–1979)