Pope John Paul II, who studied clandestinely for the priesthood in Nazi-occupied Poland, on Sunday beatified two Austrian priests who died in Nazi concentration camps.
“Between Christianity and the pagan ideology of National Socialism there could be no compromise,” the pope said during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of Otto Neururer and Jakob Gapp.
Neururer was a priest in Goetzens, a small town near Innsbruck, when he advised a girl not to marry a divorced man who was the friend of the Nazi provincial leader. The Nazis, who occupied the Tyrol in 1938, were cracking down on the Roman Catholic Church there, considering it a source of opposition.
The priest was sent to the Dachau concentration camp for “defaming German marriage,” and then to Buchenwald. There, he shared his food rations and continued to carry out his priestly duties, church authorities say.
He was tortured, strung up by his feet and hanged with his head downward on May 30, 1940, the first Roman Catholic priest to die in the camps.
Gapp was an outspoken opponent of the Nazis and was forced to flee Austria in 1939. The Gestapo traced him to Spain, lured him into Nazi-occupied France and arrested him. He was beheaded by guillotine in Berlin on Aug. 13, 1943, and his remains sent for research to the University of Berlin.
John Paul also beatified a lay member of the Dominican order, Catherine Jarrige, known for her work for the poor in France. She sided with the clandestine clergy during the French Revolution and the Terror that followed. Beatification is the last step before possible sainthood.