The way to the altars
The history and the current status of the beatification process of the Ulma Family
On 29 September 1994, the first session of the diocesan inquiry into the Servants of God Fr Henryk Szuman and 121 Companions, alleged martyrs of the Second World War, took place in Pelplin. This large group included diocesan and religious priests, religious sisters, and lay people from seven dioceses and twelve religious congregations in Poland. All died at the hands of the German occupiers, giving their lives for the faith. They were killed in various places in the country and abroad, such as the concentration camps in Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Mittelbau, and Buchenwald. The Ulma Family, murdered on 24 March 1944 in Markowa by German gendarmes, was included in this group. In the course of the investigation – due to the lack of necessary evidence – the number of alleged martyrs in this large group decreased from 121 to 88.
In order to collect testimonies and documentation concerning the alleged martyrdom of the Ulma Family, a rogatory process was held in the Archdiocese of Przemyśl of the Latin rite from 17 September 2003 to 25 April 2008. It concerned the entire group of 89 alleged martyrs of World War II and concluded with the last session in Pelplin on 24 May 2011.
Then the documents gathered at the first stage were handed over to the Vatican Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Causes of Saints. They contained 115 volumes. This marked the beginning of the second stage of the process, the so-called Roman phase. When the congregation formally opened the received documents, and the observance of the regulations at the diocesan level was verified, the Vatican Dicastery issued a decree of legal validity on May 10, 2013. The decree recognized the evidentiary value of the material collected during the diocesan stage.
A separate process
Taking into account the ever-increasing fame of martyrdom enjoyed by the Ulma Family, and to further emphasize the example of their life and tragic death, Archbishop Adam Szal, Metropolitan of Przemyśl of the Latin rite, on 31 January 2017 asked the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to exclude the case of the Servants of God Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children from the process of the Servant of God Henry Szuman and his 88 Companions. The Vatican Dicastery, by its rescript of 20 February 2017, granted this request. Thus, a new and independent process opened, conducted since then by the Archdiocese of Przemyśl of the Latin Rite.
It bears the following name:
Beatification Process or Declaration of Martyrdom of the Servants of God Józef Ulma and Wiktoria Ulma, Married, and their 7 Companions, their Children, killed, it is alleged, because of hatred of the Faith (+1944).
Archdiocese of Przemyśl
In July 2020, the Positio was completed to demonstrate the presence of all the constitutive elements of martyrdom, as the Catholic Church understands it. Martyrdom is death voluntarily accepted for the Christian faith or for the execution of other virtue connected to faith (Benedict XIV).
When the Positio on the martyrdom of the Ulma Family was finalized on 16 February 2021, it was the subject of historical evaluation (by seven historical Consultors).
The Positio was then subject to a theological debate by nine theological Consultors (22 February 2022). The conclusions and the evaluation of the members of both Commissions were positive.
On 6 December 2022, a comprehensive, also positive, evaluation of the case was made by the cardinals and bishops, members of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.
The conclusions made by the cardinals and bishops – equivalent to a ruling – were submitted by the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, to the Holy Father Francis, for final approval. This took place during the audience with the Holy Father on 17 December 2022.
With the decision of the Pope, who authorized the Dicastery to publish the relevant decree on martyrdom, the journey to the glory of the altars of the Ulma Family, which began on 24 March 1944 in Markowa, has concluded.
Author: Rev. Witold Burda
29 September 1994 The first session of the diocesan inquiry regarding the Servants of God Fr. Henryk Szuman and 121 Companions.
17 September 2003 A rogatory process was held to collect witness testimonies and documentation concerning the alleged martyrdom of the Ulma Family.
24 May 2011 The diocesan process of a whole group of 89 alleged martyrs of the Second World War ended.
20 February 2017 At the request of Archbishop Adam Szal, the Dicastery of the Holy See excluded from the process of the Servant of God Henryk Szuman and 88 Companions the case of the Servants of God Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children, allowing for a separate trial.
July 2020 Positio was completed.
16 February 2021 Positio was submitted for historical evaluation.
22 February 2022 Positio was the subject of theological discussion by nine theological Consultors.
6 December 2022 The cardinals and bishops (members of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints) made an overall assessment.
17 December 2022 The conclusions of the cardinals and bishops – equivalent to a ruling – were submitted by the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, to the Holy Father Francis, for final approval. This took place during an audience with the Holy Father. The Pope approved the decree on the martyrdom of the Venerable Servants of God.