Titus Brandsma: journalist, martyr, saint of the 20th century

Blessed Titus Brandsma – killed “out of hatred for the faith” in the Dachau concentration camp in 1942, who refused to publish propaganda and was outspoken and opposed to anti-Jewish laws enacted by the Nazis – is to be canonized on Sunday by Pope Francis. His life was the focus of a Symposium organized by the International Association of Journalists Accredited to the Vatican (AIGAV) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Titus Brandsma, whom Pope Francis will proclaim a canonized saint on Sunday, is described as a 20th century journalist-martyr.

This was highlighted during a symposium titled “Titus Brandsma: The Challenges of Journalism in Troubled Times”, organized in Rome by the International Association of Journalists Accredited to the Vatican (AIGAV) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the Holy See on Tuesday.

Vatican News was present at the intimate event, which brought together ambassadors, scholars and journalists.

Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite priest and theologian, was killed “out of hatred for the faith” in the Dachau concentration camp in 1942.

After Pope Francis authorized the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, to promulgate a series of causes for advancement to sainthood, Brandsma, along with nine others, will be canonized.

Also canonized are Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French aristocrat and cleric who has often been hailed as a pioneer of interreligious dialogue; French Sister Maria Rivier, founder of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary; and the Italian Sister Marie of Jesus, founder of the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes.

Prof. Titus spoke out forcefully against Nazi anti-Jewish laws

Born in 1881, Titus Brandsma was a Dutch theologian, journalist and author, as well as an ordained Carmelite priest, who forcefully opposed and spoke out against the anti-Jewish laws that the Nazis passed in Germany before the Second World War.

In January 1942, when Germany invaded the Netherlands, he was arrested. The Nazis told the Carmelite priest that he would be allowed to live a quiet life in a monastery if he announced that Catholic newspapers were to publish Nazi propaganda.

When Fr. Titus refused, he died soon after of hardship and starvation in the Dachau concentration camp on July 26, 1942. He died at the age of 61 after being injected with carbolic acid.

In 1985, Pope Saint John Paul II declared Titus Blessed, saying he “responded to hatred with love”.

Strong moral compass

Mr. Loup Besmond de Senneville, President of the International Association of Journalists Accredited to the Vatican (AIGAV) and Vatican correspondent for La Croix, and Caroline Weijers, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See, welcomed the journalists at the residence for the Symposium dedicated to the Carmelite priest who revealed the responsibility of speaking only the truth, regardless of the risks.

Besmond de Senneville reminded those present that Titus was a spiritual advisor to the association of Catholic journalists. He encouraged Catholic newspapers to resist German Nazi pressure.

“On Sunday, Titus will be the first journalist to be a canonized saint in the contemporary sense.”

Ambassador Weijers noted that May 10 “marks the day World War II also began in the Netherlands.”

Referring to the venue in Rome’s Prati district where the event took place, she said, “It is an honor to organize this symposium where Titus had lived while studying at the Gregorian University.”

Reflecting on Brandsma, she observed, “Titus’ life shows the importance of having a strong moral compass.”

Exemplary human rights defender

Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Human Rights Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, called Titus “an exemplary defender of human rights”.

Noting that he “emphasized that love is stronger than an ideology that preaches hate”, she said the person of Titus “instantly made people feel comfortable with him and felt connected to him. “.

Even at such an early stage, she said, Titus spoke out strongly against the Nazis, bringing him on their radar.

In her remarks on freedom of the press, or lack thereof, she marveled at how Titus, at his very last minute, showed love.

Titus Brandsma

Although she was killed by a deadly, lethal injection, Titus, she said, gave the nurse administering the poisonous drug a rosary made and donated by another prisoner who was executed.

“He always kept calm even in her last moments and gave that token of love and encouraged her to change her ways.”

Martyr journalist – God has the last word

Dr. Craig Morrison O.Carm, Dean of the Faculty of Ancient Near Eastern Languages ​​at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, reflected on “The World in which Titus Brandsma Lived and Died”. Morrison provided additional insight into his personal and professional interest in the depiction of Jews in the New Testament and early Christian Aramaic literature.

He “discussed the horrific historical context” in which Titus operated and described him as a “martyred journalist”.

Remembering the atrocities of that time, he said, “On May 15, God will have the last word when Titus Brandsma is proclaimed a saint in St. Peter’s Square.

The academic dean spoke about the Holocaust and recalled how Pope Saint John Paul II published the text We remember which says: “We very much regret the errors and the faith of Christians”.

During the event organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See, he told how 73% of Jews in the Netherlands were killed and how this could be partly attributed to the fact that citizens Dutch were paid to share on the Jews. in hiding.

He recalled that the photo of Titus was exhibited in Washington DC at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to information and journalism, which had to close for lack of sufficient funds. In the museum, there was a wall of remembrance honoring those journalists who gave their lives to report the truth.

Dr. Joan Hemels, Professor Emeritus of Communication Sciences at the University of Amsterdam and author of several publications on Titus Brandsma as a journalist, reflected on “Titus Brandsma – a self-taught and scientific journalist of the press”, and noted that, for Titus, “The role of a journalist was to tell the truth and to love the truth.”

Although he was not initially an expert in mass communication, his intelligence and character allowed him to quickly make up for lost time.

The link with Edith Stein

Dr. Christof Betschart, OCD, Dean and Professor at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology Teresianum in Rome and specialist in the life and work of Edith Stein and Carmelite spirituality, rather reflected on “Mysticism and resistance under the Third Reich: the contribution of Edith Stein (1891-1942) »

Born in 1891, Edith Stein was a German-Jewish philosopher who, after reading the works of the reformer of the Carmelite Order, Saint Teresa of Avila, converted to Catholicism.

She became a Discalced Carmelite nun who would become known as Saint Benedict of the Cross. She dedicated her life to helping others and serving God. As masses of Jews were deported to Auschwitz, it is believed that on August 9, 1942, Stein, along with his sister who had also converted, were among the countless killed in the gas chambers.

Edith Stein was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1998 and would be considered the patroness of Europe.

Edith Stein

Edith Stein

Both brilliant and devoted to the Lord, and who ultimately gave their lives, Titus and Edith had much in common, he reasoned.

The event concluded with a roundtable of journalists accredited to the Holy See Press Office, who also discussed the challenges of journalism and the search for truth in the age of fake news and social media. , which was hosted by Christopher White of the National Catholic Reporter, with Inés San Martín. of Crux and Robert Mickens of La Croix International.

Mr. Hendro Munsterman, Vatican correspondent for the Dutch national daily dutch dagblad who has taught Catholic and ecumenical theology in various universities in France, concluded the event with some food for thought and evoking the great legacy that Titus Brandsma, future saint, left to the world.

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