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Germany

Pope to Beatify German Anti-Nazi Bishop

Clemens August, the late bishop of Münster who spoke out against the Nazis' euthanasia program during World War II, is to be beatified by Pope John Paul II.

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Clemens August, the bishop of Münster -- soon to be beatified

Pope John Paul II will beatify the late bishop of Münster in north Germany who courted death by preaching openly from the pulpit against the Nazis' euthanasia program during the darkest days of the Third Reich, the bishopric of Münster said on Wednesday.

Clemens August, Count von Galen, incurred the rage of Hitler and his cohorts with courageous denunciations during World War II of the secret policy of taking mentally handicapped victims into custody and putting them to death.

The bishopric said the Vatican congregation charged with beatifications and canonizations had been able to attribute a miracle to the prelate -- the healing of a young boy he mentioned in his prayers.

Seligsprechung von Mutter Teresa durch Papst Johannes Paul II.

A statue of St. Peter's Basilica is framed in front of the tapestry with the image of Mother Teresa before the start of the beatification ceremony of the ethnic Albanian nun in October 2003

A miracle has to be attributed to someone before they can be beatified. Beatification is the first step toward canonization, or bestowing sainthood upon a person. Recent people beatified by the pope include Mother Teresa and the last Austrian emperor, Charles I.

Sermons smuggled abroad

When Clemens August preached against the Nazis euthanasia program, worshippers had secretly noted down his sermons, and the anti-Nazi resistance smuggled them abroad. They were later broadcast to Germany by the German service of the BBC.

Later evidence quoted by historians revealed that an enraged Hitler wanted Galen hanged, but that propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels warned this could lead to alienation among sections of the local Catholic population among whom Galen was highly popular. Hitler was then reported to have said he would "settle the score" with Galen after the war.

Cardinal position awarded

Clemens August Graf von Galen

Clemens August, Count von Galen, in an undated photograph.

"The Lion of Münster," as he came to be known, survived the war but only briefly. He was born in 1878, the child of aristocrats, ordained as a Catholic priest in 1904, and became head of the Münster diocese in 1933, the year the Nazis came to power. Shortly before his death in 1946 the then pope elevated him to the rank of cardinal.

The Vatican began the beatification process at the end of last year by formally recognizing Galen's "heroic virtues," one of the first steps in the procedure of beatification.

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