Opposed to a system of contempt. 72 anniversary of the death of Maximilian Kolbe
72 years ago, in the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz, the Franciscan, Father Maximilian Kolbe, was murdered. On the anniversary of this event, by the block 11, where the monk was murdered, a holy mass was celebrated. It was presided over by the Ordinary of the Diocese of Bielsko-Żywiec, Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy. The service was attended by hundreds of people.
“On the appeal square, St. Maximilian, with his voice, opposed the entire system of contempt and hatred for man and for that which is divine in man,” said the Metropolitan of Katowice, Archbishop Wiktor Skworc, in his homily. He mentioned the figure of St. Edith Stein, whose 71st anniversary of her death in Auschwitz coincided with 9 August: “The fate of Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe are permanently etched into the history of this camp. They are, to this day, not only saints of the Church, but extremely courageous people, beautiful in their humanity, providing inspiration for action in the name of God, who is love,” said the Archbishop.
In the speech he gave to those assembled, Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy appealed to everyone on this special day to pray for world peace and for respect for every human being. “I hope that the drama that happened here will never again take place and will not be repeated in any other place on earth. Let us pray that all war in the world will fade away and that the peace so longed for has come, so that no hand shall be raised to your brother, that all shall live in unity and peace. We also pray that, as it is in our country, there has been a reconciliation of all groups and ideologies, and that we all care about the good of man, the whole country and a united Europe,” he said.
During the anniversary ceremony, flowers were placed at the Wall of Death in the courtyard of block 11 as well as in the camp's appeal square, where Maximilian Kolbe gave his life for his fellow prisoner, Franciszek Gajowniczek. The hierarchy and Franciscans also prayed in cell no. 18 in the basement of block 11, which was where St. Maximilian was murdered.
Rajmund Kolbe was born on 8 October 1894 in Zduńska Wola. In 1910, he joined the Franciscan Order in Lvov, where he received the name Maximilian. In 1912, he began his studies in Rome in philosophy and theology, obtaining doctorates in those disciplines, and was ordained a priest. He returned to Poland in 1919. In 1927, he founded a monastery in Niepokalanów near Warsaw and a publishing house. He was also a missionary in Japan.
On 28 May 1941, he was imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Two months later, he offered up his life in exchange for that of a stranger, Franciszek Gajowniczek, sentenced to death by starvation in reprisal for the escape of a prisoner. He died on 14 August 1941, killed by an injection of phenol in the cellars of the so-called Death Block.
He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonised by the Blessed John Paul II on 10 October 1982. In 1999, he was proclaimed by the pope as patron of blood donors. He is also patron of the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec.