November 21, 2017

The Capuchin priest Marie Benoît saved the lives of 4,000 Jews


The General Curia of the religious order in Rome (Italy) is declared “House of life”

The Roman monastery that houses the General Curia of the more than ten thousand Franciscan capuchin friars of the world has been for a few days “House of Life”, in recognition of the help offered by religious of that religious order to Jews during the persecutions of the Second World War.

The recognition has been attributed by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, chaired by Eduardo Eurnekian, and founded by Baruch Tenembaum, in an official ceremony in which Father Mauro Johri, general teacher of the Capuchins, participated.

In the General Curia of the Capuchins lived the French priest Marie-Benoît (1895-1990), who helped four thousand Jews escape during the Nazi occupation in France and Italy, largely by obtaining false documents for them to take refuge in Switzerland or Spain.

The priest had begun his aid work in the south of France, in Nice, but when discovered by the Gestapo he had to flee to Rome, where he continued his efforts on behalf of the Jews with the help of Vatican authorities.

Father Marie-Benoît was part of the Council of the organization DELASEM (Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants), organizing meetings in the Convent of the Capuchins in Rome, where he gave refuge to many persecuted.

His relationship with the Jewish community was so profound that during the raids of the Nazis in Rome I entrust him with the keys of the synagogue in Rome. As soon as the occupation ended, in June 1944, he himself was able to open the synagogue.

For this reason, shortly after the Jewish community, led by Rabbi Israel Zoller, held an official ceremony in that same synagogue in honor of Father Marie-Benoît.

Years later, the president of the United States Lyndon Johnson delivered a speech in which he affirmed that the “wonderful actions” of Father Marie-Benoît should “inspire the American people in the protection and preservation of citizens’ rights, regardless of race. , color or religion “.

On December 1, 1966, Yad Vashem officially recognized Father Marie-Benoît as “just among the nations.”

The Wallenberg Foundation has placed the commemorative plaque outside the General Curia of the Capuchins, “in recognition of the heroic deeds of Father Marie-Benoît and of all those who collaborated in that mission of salvation.”

“The plaque will remind all visitors and the people who pass by there that, when the Holocaust was one of the darkest periods of humanity, many people opposed this terrible evil. This rowing against evil made the difference. These ‘house of life’ is the testimony of the courage of those silent heroes. An acknowledgment of the value of the good, not forgetting, to express gratitude, the memory of the good “, explained the representatives of the Foundation at the ceremony.

For his part, the superior of the Capuchins, Father Johri, confessed during the ceremony his excitement when remembering a brother who risked his life, and who involved in his work of help and salvation other brothers of the Order and the Capuchin nuns. .

“His example is particularly significant when you know the history of the Jews of Rome,” added Father Johri-. While some capuchin friar gave them preaching to convert, this friar respected them to the end, inviting everyone to be a true Jew, a true Christian, without pretending to change their religion. ”

In this context, Father Johri considered that the example of Father Marie-Benoît is very important also today.

The Capuchins have followed suit in the Central African Republic, where the last two years of civil war have provoked thousands of refugees and displaced people. When the violence has been unleashed against the Muslims, the Capuchins have opened the doors of their missions and monasteries.

Father Johri recalled, finally, that this is the same spirit that Pope Francis has lived, who when he was a Jesuit priest, during the repression in Argentina, helped many people to save their lives, whether Catholics or non-Catholics.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation urges to share reliable information on other “Houses of life” that have sheltered persecuted genocide or conflicts, either by email (, or by phone, contacting their different locations:
New York: 212-7373275
Jerusalem: + 972-2-6257996
Buenos Aires: + 54-11-43827872
More information