Austrian farmer to be recognised as 'martyr for peace'

By staff writers
June 6, 2007

Catholic peace campaigners have welcomed the news that an Austrian Farmer, killed for refusing to fight with the Nazis, is to be beatified by the Catholic church.

Franz Jägerstätter's cause has been long promoted by Pax Christi.

Beatification means that he may now be publicly venerated. It does not mean he is a saint.

Jägerstätter was beheaded in Brandenburg, Germany, on 9 August 1943, for refusing to fight in Hitler’s army.

Speaking of the beatification, Bishop Malcolm McMahon, President of Pax Christi UK said: “The extraordinary courage of Franz Jägerstätter, a faithful Catholic, has been an inspiration to many and a powerful witness to peace and nonviolence. In an age of war and violence we urgently need the example of those who use their consciences to make judgements about what is evil - and refuse to take part in it. The recognition of this man’s holiness by the Church should encourage us all to stand up for peace, justice and human dignity.”

Franz believed that it would be a sin if he acted against his conscience and agreed to fight for the National Socialist state. For him, this was a situation in which he had to obey God more than the commands of secular rulers. In following the commandment ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ Franz decided that he could not fight with weapons of war.

For refusing to undertake military service he was sentenced to death in Berlin and was beheaded in Brandenburg on 9th August 1943.

Pax Christi also offered a warm message of support to his widow, Fransiska Jägerstätter, which the group describes as "a faithful partner in his terrible sacrifice and a witness to peace herself."

Their three daughters were all under the age of six at the time of his death.

Franziska suffered many years of economic punishment, discrimination and social exclusion before Austrian attitudes to her husband’s conscientious objection began to change.

He is now honoured as a hero in Austria.

Pax Christi has commemorated the anniversary of Franz Jägerstätter with an ecumenical service in London each year, and has organised several pilgrimages to St Radegund since the first British Pax Christi group went there in 1975.

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