Karl Leisner

The Blessed Karl Leisner (28 February 1915 in Rees – 12 August 1945 in Planegg, Germany) was a Roman Catholic priest interned in the Dachau concentration camp. He died of tuberculosis shortly after being liberated by the Allied forces. He has been declared a martyr and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23 June 1996.

1502 Leisner
Karl Leisner, German stamp (2015); inscription: Bless also, o Most High, my enemies.

Life

Leisner was born on 28 February 1915, the oldest of five children. When he was six years old, the family moved to Kleve, a city on the lower Rhine, where his father worked as a civil servant. He attended school and completed his gymnasium studies in 1934. During his youth, he became an altar boy and, at the suggestion of the high school chaplain, formed a Catholic youth group, the Saint Werner Group. These youth groups combined prayer with outdoor activities, such as camping and cycling. Leisner turned out to be a natural leader and became a youth leader in the 1930s, during the era in which the Nazis were beginning to take control of all youth organizations. In order to avoid Nazi interference, Leisner would often take his group on camping trips to Holland or Belgium.[1]

In 1934, when he was nineteen, Leisner entered the seminary in Munich,[2] and was named Diocesan Youth Leader by Clemens August von Galen, Bishop of Münster. He spent six months in compulsory agricultural work during which, despite Nazi opposition, he organized Sunday Mass for his fellow workers. His home was raided by the Gestapo, who seized his diaries and papers. These meticulously preserved documents tell how the spiritual young man became a religious leader.

On 25 March 1939, Galen ordained Leisner a deacon.[2] Shortly after his ordination, during a medical examination, the doctor told the new deacon that he had contracted tuberculosis. In those days, the sole treatment available for the disease was good food and fresh air. These were to be found at a sanitorium in St. Blasien, in the Black Forest, where he was sent and began to recover. It was during his recovery that a fellow patient heard him criticize Adolf Hitler. The Gestapo arrested him as a political prisoner on 9 November 1939, when he was twenty-five. He was interned first in Freiburg and later in Mannheim.[3] Leisner was initially imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, but was moved to the Dachau concentration camp on 14 December 1940, where he became prisoner No. 22,356. Since he was a deacon, Leisner was assigned to the priests' block.[1]

Prisoners often had to work outside in snow or rain and then had to sleep in their wet prison clothes. Cold weather, poor rations and harsh treatment proved a dangerous combination for someone already suffering to tuberculosis. Such conditions caused Leisner's condition to become active. Then, during an inspection, two Gestapo guards beat him unconscious and he spent several hours on the floor of his hut. By March 1942, he was spitting blood and was forced to report to the infirmary where medical experiments were known to be performed. He was put in a room that was crowded with over 100 tuberculosis patients. In Dachau, there was never any attempt to cure a disease and very little care was given to the sick. During inspections of the infirmary, any patient thought to be incurable was executed.[1]

On 17 December 1944, Gaudete Sunday, a fellow prisoner, French Bishop Gabriel Piguet, secretly ordained him a priest.[3] The necessary paperwork with the authorization for the ordination, as well as other necessary items, were smuggled into the camp by "Mädi", the "Angel of Dachau", a young woman named Josefa Mack. (Mack went on to become a School Sister of Notre Dame in Munich, called Sister Maria Imma.) Some imprisoned Protestant pastors helped organize the event and a Jewish violinist played music near the barracks to create a diversion.[2]

The newly ordained priest only celebrated a single Mass and was so ill that he had to postpone his first Mass for over a week.[3] When Dachau was liberated on 4 May 1945, Leisner was taken to a sanatarium in Planegg, near Munich. He died there a few months later, on 12 August 1945.

Leisner's body was taken to Kleve and buried in a local cemetery on 20 August 1945. His remains were exhumed and re-interred in the crypt of the Cathedral of Xanten in 1966.

Beatification

On a visit to Berlin in 1996, Pope John Paul II recognized Leisner as a martyr for the Catholic faith and beatified him, together with Bernhard Lichtenberg, another Nazi resister. His feast day is 12 August.

The canonization process for Leisner has not yet been completed.

Media

Some works have been published in English about Leisner. One is The Victory of Father Karl by Otto Pies, published in 1957. It was a translation of Stephanus heute; Karl Leisner, Priester und Opfer. A radio drama adaptation was produced for "The Hour of St. Francis" with the same title. A half-hour docudrama on videotape was released by the Daughters of St. Paul in 1984, also with the same title.

Leisner and Schoenstatt

Karl Leisner got to know the Schoenstatt movement as a teenager and belonged to a Schoenstatt group - which included the future Bishop of Münster, Heinrich Tenhumberg - up till his final days. Throughout his life, the few but intense times of personal encounter with Our Lady in the Original Shrine in Schoenstatt remained the decisive milestones for Karl Leisner on his path of calling. "Christ, my passion" - led by this ideal, he worked in the diocesan youth and wrestled his way to a decision for a celibate life as a priest. In the Dachau concentration camp he founded, together with Josef Fischer, the first Schoenstatt group in Dachau, which had to end its meetings in the 1942 starvation year. From 1943 Karl Leisner belonged to the group "Victor in vinculis Mariae" (victor in the shackles of Mary) and thus to the circle of Schoenstaetters around the founder Josef Kentenich. From the ideal and the fraternity of this group, Karl Leisner drew the strength to accept his fate, which was burdened by the tuberculosis of the lung as well as the difficult conditions in the concentration camp, as the will of God and to offer his life as a martyr.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "Blessed Karl Leisner", Heroes of the Holocaust, Catholic Heritage Curricula
  2. ^ a b c Phillips, Francis. "The incredible story of the priest ordained amidst the horrors of Dachau", Catholic Herald, 17 July 2017
  3. ^ a b c "Biographies of the Blesseds", L'Osservatore Romano, 1996

Sources

  • Hermann GEBERT, Geschichte einer Berufung. Karl Leisner (1915-1945). Vallendar, Patris Verlag, 2001.
  • Arnaud Join-Lambert, Karl Leisner. Bruyères-le-Chatel : Nouvelle Cité, 2009 (collection Prier 15 jours avec, n° 132) 128 p. ISBN 978-2-85313-582-5; Idem, Ganz und ungeteilt. 15 Tage mit Karl Leisner. Übersetzung von Josef Barmettler – Jutta Krugmann – Oskar Bühler, Vorwort Robert Zollitsch, Patris Verlag, Vallendar 2010, 176 p. ISBN 978-3-87620-342-3.
  • René Lejeune, Comme l'or passé au feu. Carl Leisner 1915-1945. Éditions du Parvis, Hauteville / Suisse, 1989, 285 p.
  • Hans-Karl SEEGER, Karl Leisners letztes Tagebuch. In Handschrift, in Druckschrift und kommentiert. "Segne auch, Höchster, meine Feinde !". Dialogverlag, Münster, 2000.
  • Pies, Otto, The Victory of Father Karl. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1957. Translation of Stephanus heute; Karl Leisner, Priester und Opfer.

External links

Ad Apostolorum principis

Ad Apostolorum principis (29 June 1958) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII on Communism and the Church in China. It describes systematic persecutions of bishops, priests, religious and faithful and the attempts of the government to establish a patriotic Catholic Church, independent of Rome.

Ad Sinarum gentem

Ad Sinarum gentem issued October 7, 1954, is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to the Chinese people on the super-nationality of the Church.

Anni sacri

Anni sacri (March 12, 1950) issued on the twelfth anniversary of his coronation, is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII on a program combating atheism.

The encyclical states:

The war is over but peace has not yet arrived. The reason for this is, that unjust lies are substituted for truth. In some countries the press turns against religion and ridicules religious feelings. In many others, there is continued persecution of the Christian faithful. It is therefore necessary in this Holy Year 1950, to preach the truth and the true gospel of Christ. Pope Pius XII calls for Church-wide efforts, to begin a veritable crusade of prayer among the faithful to implore suitable remedies for the present evils. He requests worldwide public prayers on March 26, Passion Sunday. The Pope will on that day descend into the Basilica of St. Peter to pray not only with the whole Catholic world. Those who, because of illness or old age or other reasons, cannot come to church, are requested to pray at home.

Beda Chang

Beda Chang, S.J. (Simplified Chinese: 张伯达; Traditional Chinese: 張伯達) (c. 1905 – November 11, 1951) was a Chinese Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and martyr. He was tortured to death during a wave of persecution by the communist government. Born as Chang Cheng-Min (or Tsan Cheng-Min, varying sources), Father Beda Chang was a priest and the dean of faculty of arts at Shanghai's Aurora University.

Bernhard Lichtenberg

The Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg (3 December 1875 – 5 November 1943) was a German Roman Catholic priest and theologian, who died while in the custody of forces of the Third Reich. He has been awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations and has been beatified by the Catholic Church.

Christianity in Saudi Arabia

Accurate religious demographics are difficult to obtain in Saudi Arabia but while all citizens are considered Muslims by the state, there are believed to be at least 1.5–2 million Christians living in the country.

Dilectissima Nobis

Dilectissima Nobis, "On Oppression of the Church of Spain", is an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on June 3, 1933, in which he decried persecution of the Church in Spain, citing the expropriation of all Church buildings, episcopal residences, parish houses, seminaries and monasteries. He protested "serious offenses committed against the Divine Majesty, with the numerous violations of His sacrosanct rights and with so many transgressions of His laws, We have sent to heaven fervent prayers asking God to pardon the offenses against Him".

Erich Klausener

Erich Klausener (25 January 1885 – 30 June 1934) was a German Catholic politician who was killed in the "Night of the Long Knives", a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from 30 June to 2 July 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders.

Gabriel Piguet

Monsignor Gabriel Piguet (born 24 Feb 1887 at Mâcon, died 3 July 1952 at Clermont-Ferrand) was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, France. Involved in Catholic resistance to Nazism, he was imprisoned in the Priest Barracks of Dachau Concentration Camp in 1944. He has been honoured as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial.During the Second World War, Piguet allowed Jewish children to be hidden from the Nazis at the Saint Marguerite Catholic boarding school in Clermont-Ferrand. He was arrested by German police in his Cathedral on 28 May 1944 for the crime of giving aid to a priest wanted by the Gestapo. Imprisoned first in Clermont-Ferrand, he was deported to Dachau Concentration Camp in September.At Dachau, Piguet presided over the secret ordination of Blessed Karl Leisner, who died soon after the liberation of the camp. He survived his imprisonment, though physically diminished - he had lost 35 kg. He died seven years later.

Iniquis afflictisque

Iniquis afflictisque (On the Persecution of the Church in Mexico) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on November 18, 1926, to denounce the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico. It was one of three encyclicals concerning Mexico, including Acerba animi (1932) and Firmissimam Constantiamque (1937). The Mexican government at the time was engaging in violently anticlerical persecution of the Church and the Pope harshly criticised the government for its abuses. The Pope criticized the state's interference in matters of worship, outlawing of religious orders and the expropriation of Church property. He noted that, "Priests are ... deprived of all civil and political rights. They are thus placed in the same class with criminals and the insane."

Invicti athletae

Invicti athletae (May 16, 1957) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to the bishops of the world on the 300th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Andrew Bobola.

Some parts of the encyclical are addressed particularly to the Catholics of Poland.

José María of Manila

Blessed José María de Manila (born Eugenio del Saz-Orozco Mortera, 5 September 1880 – 17 August 1936) is a Spanish-Filipino Roman Catholic blessed, and was priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. He was martyred in the early phase of the Spanish Civil War, and is the third Filipino to have been declared blessed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Martyrs of Turon

The martyrs of Turon were a group of eight De La Salle Brothers and a Passionist priest who were executed by revolutionaries in Spain in October 1934. They were canonized in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.

Meminisse iuvat

Meminisse iuvat (14 July 1958) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII, asking for prayers of the persecuted Church in the East and criticizing harmful cultural developments in the West. He asks for a novena of prayer preceding the feast of the Assumption.

The encyclical reminds its readers, that during the Second World War the Pope did not simply preach peace or work on better understanding between the war parties. Most importantly, he consecrated the whole human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the mother of God. Twelve years later, war is over, but peace has not yet arrived. The new atomic weapons can annihilate not only the vanquished but also the victors.

Pietro Leoni

Pietro Leoni (1909–1995) was a Jesuit priest from Italy who later worked in the Soviet Union.

Poloniae Annalibus

Poloniae Annalibus (July 16, 1953) is an apostolic letter of Pope Pius XII commemorating the seven hundredth anniversary of the canonization of Saint Stanislaw and encouraging the Polish episcopate to be united and strong in face of persecution.

According to the letter, Saint Stanislaw was an exemplar of steadfastness in his time and a model for our time. As bishop of Krakow, he was a model for piety, social engagement and courage. He dared to tell King Boleslaw his faults and sin in his face. He was tortured as a result but his mind did not bend. The Krakow faithful were so enraged over this sacrilege, that they forced the king to abdicate. He went into exile for the rest of his life.

The bishops of Poland display the same fervour and the same love as the faithful in those days. Indeed, their trials are very comparable to those of Saint Stanislaw. A night of terror has descended over faithful Poland. But in the darkness of night shine the stars of Polish loyalty in such a way, that the whole world watches in admiration. Many Poles lost everything, because they defended their faith. Many lost their lives. Many bishops, priests and Religious were incarcerated, sent to Siberia, robbed of all rights, tortured, maligned and falsely accused of all things, for one reason only: They were messengers of Christ. Average and dispirited persons cannot understand this, but eternal honour is certain all those, who gave everything. They are the true successors of Saint Stanislaw. His virtues continue to flourish among the Polish people. It may take time, but the powerful blessings of all these sacrifices will later bear rich fruit.

Pope Pius XII reviews Polish history in order to show how Polish loyalty and faith, following the example of Stanislaw, was always victorious. Saint Stanislaw this is not only a saint of virtue but of justice as well. And the Poles, who were divided at the time unified around the relics of the great saint. He admonishes the episcopate to maintain the same unity.

Severian Baranyk

Blessed Severian Stefan Baranyk (Ukrainian: Северіян Бараник; 18 July 1889 - ? 1941) was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest and martyr.

Baranyk was born in Austrian Galicia (today Western Ukraine). He entered the monastery of the Order of St Basil the Great in Krekhiv in 1904. On 16 May he took his first monastic vows and then on 21 September 1910 he took his perpetual vows. He was ordained to the priesthood on 14 February 1915. Baranyk was known for his preaching, and his life was noted for his special kindness to youth and orphans. In 1932 he was made the prior of the Basilian monastery in Drohobych.

On 26 June 1941 the NKVD arrested him. He was taken to Drohobych prison and never seen alive again. After the Soviets withdrew from the city his mutilated body was found in the prison with signs of torture, including cross shaped knife slashes across his chest.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001.

Theodore Romzha

Theodore George Romzha (Ukrainian: Теодор Юрій Ромжа, Hungarian: Tódor György Romzsa, 14 April 1911 – 31 October 1947) was bishop of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Mukacheve from 1944 to 1947. Assassinated by NKVD, he was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001.

Zynoviy Kovalyk

Blessed Zynoviy Kovalyk (Ukrainian: Зиновій Ковалик - sometimes spelled Zenon or Zenobius; 18 August 1903 - ? 1941) was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest and martyr.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.