The Cross of Christ versus the swastika of Hitler

2013-03-06 L’Osservatore Romano

Rome, 5. A strong and courageous woman. Ward sister and head nurse in an Austrian hospital, she firmly opposed the anti-religious measures on the arrival of Nazi regime and she defended the rights of the weak and the sick, speaking of peace and democracy.  She was denounced by the “SS”, was imprisoned and then killed at Vienna, 30 March 1943, at the age of 49. 

The sacrifice of Blessed Maria Restituta (born Helen Kafka) — the only Sister to be condemned to death under the national-socialist regime and judged after a court hearing — was commemorated on the evening of 4 March, in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island, with a liturgy of the word at which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presided. During the rite the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity gave to the Basilica a small cross which Maria Restituta carried on the belt of her habit.  The relic was placed in the chapel which remembers the martyrs of nationalist socialism.

As is known, immediately after the Great Jubilee of 2000, John Paul II wanted the Roman Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island to become a place of memorial for the “new martyrs” and witnesses of the faith from the 20th and 21st century.  The Basilica has for years been entrusted to the Sant’Egidio Community which, together with the Austrian Embassy to the Holy See, organized the evening's event

On 21 June 1998 Restituta Kafka was beatified in Vienna, together with the servants of God, Jakob Kern and Anton Maria Schwartz, by John Paul II, who said: “Looking at Bl. Sr Restituta, we can see to what heights of inner maturity a person can be led by the divine hand. She risked her life for her witness to the Cross. And she kept the Cross in her heart, bearing witness to it once again before being led to execution, when she asked the prison chaplain to 'make the Sign of the Cross on my forehead'.

Many things can be taken from us Christians. But we will not let the Cross as a sign of salvation be taken from us. We will not let it be removed from public life! We will listen to the voice of our conscience, which says: 'We must obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29).”

On the evening of the 4th, therefore, Bl. Maria Restituta Helen Kafka also entered into the

ranks of the martyrs present, with a relic or memorial, in the Roman Basilica of St Bartholomew.  She was a lady who, with a renewing strength, was able to give an example of freedom of expression and of responsibility of the individual conscience – even in difficult circumstances, animated by a virtue that is at times inconvenient: courage.  “It does not matter how far we are separated from everything, no matter what is taken from us: the faith that we carry in our hearts is something no one can take from us. In this way we build an altar in our own hearts”, the religious wrote in a letter from prison.