This Sunday, 26 April 2014, alongside the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, we will celebrate the beatification of Fr. Giuseppe Girotti, OP.
Esteemed for his vast learning, he loved to exercise his priestly ministry among the poor and lonely especially at the hospice of the elderly which was close to his convent of S. Maria delle Rose, Turin. There came a period of trial and suffering for him, which he accepted in humility. He was deprived of further education and was transferred to the Convent of San Domenico in the historic centre of Turin. Despite this, he continued his research in Scriptures while intensifying the exercise of his priestly and charitable activities.
“Everything I do is for charity”, he candidly said once, indicating his continued growth in the virtue of charity.
After September 8, 1943, with the German occupation and the birth of the Italian Social Republic, Girotti began a centre for a vast network of support for Jews. His cultural affinity to Jews was nourished during his years of study in Jerusalem and further deepened by his actual study of Scriptures. It is in this sense that we understand his expressions “Carriers of the Word of God” and “Elder brothers” as referring to Jews. At this time, many of them, while facing persecution and much suffering, sought for safe havens and false documents for a new identity. Girotti was able to assist them in many ways.
His activities with Jews which were contrary to the Laws of the Fascist and Nazi led to his arrest on the 29th of August, 1944. He was betrayed by a spy who disguised as someone in need of help and he was taken to Villa Cavorette, the place where Girotti had hidden the Jewish Professor Joseph Diena. Girotti was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in the new prison at Turin. Despite the efforts of his prior to have him released, he was transferred first to San Vittore prison in Milan, then to the camp of Gries, Bozano and finally on the 5th of October 1944, he was taken to Dachau, Germany. According to Don Angelo Dalmasso, another priest with whom he was imprisoned, Girotti stood out for his generosity and openness toward the other inmates with whom he frequently shared the Word of God. He was imprisoned in Cabin 26 with a thousand other priests in a space that was originally meant for 180 inmates. Due to this condition, he became ill and was admitted at the infirmary.
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, at barely 40years old, Girotti died. His death was probably aided by a lethal injection of gasoline as was the custom then. On his bunk, his fellow inmates wrote, “Here slept Saint Giuseppe Girotti”.