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Polish, German bishops pay tribute to Jewish-born Catholic saint at Auschwitz

09.08.2022 08:30
Events marking the 80th anniversary of the death of Edith Stein, a Jew who converted to Catholicism and became a saint, are being held at the former Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland.
Edith Stein
Edith SteinPAP/DPA

Edith Stein, whose religious name was Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau on August 9, 1942.

Poland's Kraków Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski and Bishop Bertram Meier from Augsburg, Germany, are due to lead a procession along the Path of Prayer towards a memorial to the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is located among the remains of the two largest gas chambers and crematoria.

Bishop Meier is expected to address the ceremony on behalf of the German Bishops’ Conference.

Later in the day, a prayer for peace will be held at the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in the southern Polish city of Oświęcim with representatives of the clergy, Edith Stein Societies from Poland, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as a group of young Poles.

There will be a virtual link-up with an Edith Stein commemorative gathering in Germany and with students of the Catholic University in Nagasaki.

August 9 marks the anniversary of the nuclear bomb attack on that Japanese city.

The day’s events will conclude with an evening mass at the Carmelite convent in Oświęcim, celebrated by Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Edith Stein was born into a Jewish family in what is now the southwestern Polish city of Wrocław, then Breslau in Germany, on October 12, 1891. She lived in the city for 23 years.

Edith Stein House at 38 Nowowiejska St. in Wrocław Edith Stein House at 38 Nowowiejska St. in Wrocław. Photo: PAP/Adam Hawałej

In 1916, she obtained a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Freiburg in Germany, and became a leading figure of the phenomenological school, trying to interpret phenomenology from a Catholic standpoint.

She gave up her Jewish faith and converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of 31. In 1934, she became a Carmelite nun, serving in a convent in the Dutch town of Echt.

Edith Stein was canonised by Pope John Paul II.

She is one of the six patron saints of Europe.