- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2007

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has approved recognition of martyrdom, a step toward possible sainthood, for an Austrian who was beheaded by the Nazis for refusing to serve in Adolf Hitler’s army.

Ten years ago, a Berlin court posthumously exonerated Franz Jaegerstaetter, who was drafted after Germany annexed his native Austria, for refusing to serve in the German army. His request to be excused from regular army service had been denied, and he was ordered executed for treason.

Mr. Jaegerstaetter had been the only person in his village to vote against the creation of a so-called “Greater Germany” shortly after Austria was annexed in 1938. He was beheaded in 1943.

Benedict also approved martyrdom Friday for 188 Japanese who were decapitated, burned at the stake or scalded to death in volcanic hot springs in the early 1700s. Among them was a Jesuit priest, Peter Kibe, a convert to Christianity whose work as a missionary was opposed by authorities.

He and the other Japanese died for refusing to renounce their faith.

The pope also approved a miracle attributed to Antonio Rosmini, an Italian priest and philosopher who died in 1855 and whose writings were once condemned by the Vatican. In 2001, the then-head of the Vatican’s watchdog office for doctrinal errors, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the present pope, ruled the concerns over his writings were outdated.

Father Rosmini developed a philosophical system that incorporated political and social ideas with Roman Catholicism. The approval of a miracle opens the way for Father Rosmini’s beatification, the last formal step before sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Being declared a martyr, which means the men died for the church, eliminates the requirement of a miracle to be beatified. However, after beatification, martyrs need to have a miracle confirmed if they are to become saints.

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