WelCom September 2022
Eighty years after Edith Stein’s death at Auschwitz, August 9, 1942, a Vatican cardinal has said Mass in her honour near the former death camp.
Raised as a Jew, Stein was an atheist philosopher who converted to Catholicism in 1921 when she was 30. She became a Discalced Carmelite nun in 1938 and took the name Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was canonised in 1998.
On the anniversary of her death, Cardinal Michael Czerny joined with her Carmelite sisters and celebrated a Mass for St Teresa Benedicta near Auschwitz.
Like her, members of Cardinal Czerny’s family were also arrested and sent to concentration camps. Some were sent to Auschwitz. Cardinal Czerny’s homily recounted St Teresa Benedicta’s story and how it intersected with his maternal Czechoslovak family. ‘With Edith Stein, I share Jewish origins, the Catholic faith and a vocation to religious life…’, he said.
Stein wrote that her ‘first encounter with the Cross’ took place in 1917. She was visiting a recently widowed friend who told her about her late husband’s conversion and her own. The friend explained that the peace she received at her baptism prevailed even during this time of loss.
Stein ‘was struck by the serenity that the woman maintained in spite of tragedy,’ Cardinal Czerny said. ’No human force could account for or explain such peace,’ Stein later wrote: ‘It was the moment when the light of Christ, Christ on the cross, shone.’
In 1933, Stein wrote to Pope Pius XI urging him to speak out against all expressions of antisemitism. It wasn’t until 1998 the Church formally apologised for not taking more decisive action to challenge Nazism and the so-called ‘final solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’.
By the end of the war, Cardinal Czerny’s family was scattered or dead. His grandmother and her children were considered Jewish as his grandmother was of Jewish descent. His grandfather refused to divorce his Jewish wife, so he was arrested too. Only his grandfather and mother survived.
Sources: American Magazine,