A German prelate known as the "Lion of Münster" for standing up to the Nazi regime was beatified in front of 10,000 of his compatriots at a ceremony at the Vatican on Sunday.
Cardinal von Galen's portrait hung in St. Peter's Cathedral on Sunday
Cardinal Clemens August von Galen decried Adolf Hitler's policy of eugenics, which called for euthanasia for "unproductive citizens" such as the disabled, in a famous sermon in 1941 while still a bishop in his diocese of Westphalia.
Sunday is the 1,200th anniversary of the founding of the archdiocese of Münster, the oldest in Germany, over which the cardinal presided from 1933 to 1943.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the beatification ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica.
Beatification is the penultimate step on the road toward being declared a saint.
German Pope Benedict XVI attended the ceremony, but has delegated each of the beatification ceremonies during his papacy so far to a cardinal. In contrast to his predecessor John Paul II, the pope has decided to personally handle only canonization ceremonies, which are proclamations of full sainthood.
Cardinal August 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.
Miracle of healing attributed to cardinal
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 that mentioned the cardinal in his prayers. A miracle has to be attributed to someone before they can be beatified. Recent people beatified by the pope include Mother Teresa and the last Austrian emperor, Charles I.
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
"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.