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Beatification under way for policeman who saved Jews. (News in Brief: Italy).

Rome -- October 14, 2002, the Pope's vicar for Rome opened the cause of beatification of Giovanni Palatucci, a policeman who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

Palatucci was the commissioner of the Adriatic coast town of Rijeka, which today is in Croatia, but during World War II was under Italian jurisdiction with the name Fiume. He saved more than 5,000 Jews from persecution and extermination between 1937 and 1944, providing them with false documents and safe-conducts. He also paid for his actions with his own deportation to the Dachau concentration camp where he died from exhaustion and hard labour in February 1945, at age 35.

The layman and martyr "went beyond the commandment: He loved his neighbour more than himself," Roszi Neumann, a survivor, testified before the commission that initiated the beatification cause. The ceremony for the opening of the cause was attended by numerous representatives of the Roman Jewish community, among them the latter's president, Leone Pasermann.

Giovanni Palatucci was born in Montella, near Naples, in 1909. He worked for public security in Genoa, and then in Fiume. He was engaged to a Jewish Slav, whom he took to Switzerland to save her life. He graduated in law and entered the Italian police--but not for the sake of a career. "He was interested in the marginalized--political refugees, Jews, everyone," explained Father Gianfranco Zuncheddu, police chaplain and postulator of the cause. The process is taking place in Rome because most of the documents relating to Palatucci are in the Ministry of the Interior, and many of the witnesses are Italians.

Commenting on the racial laws of Benito Mussolini's Fascist government, Palatucci said: "They want to make us believe that the heart is only a muscle, to stop us from doing what our heart and religion dictate to us." Palatucci was proclaimed "Righteous Among the Nations" in 1990. A street in Tel Aviv is named after him, as are streets, squares, and parks in numerous Italian cities.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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