October 22, 2004

Statue Unveiled to Italian Franciscan Who Saved Many From Nazi Persecution


Inauguration Took Place in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua

PADUA, Italy, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A bust of Father Placido Cortese, known for his efforts to save numerous people from Nazi persecution, was unveiled in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.

Born Nicolo Cortese di Cherso and called Father Placido by his brothers in the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, he was director of the magazine ”St. Anthony’s Messenger.”

According to Father Apollonio Tottoli, the priest’s biographer, Father Placido ”did not look like a hero. He was small and thin. But he had amazing courage and determination to the point of facing martyrdom in prayer.”

At the height of the war, when the city of Padua was occupied by the Nazis, Father Placido organized a network to rescue prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. He saved the lives of refugees, prisoners, Jewish and Slovenian persecuted politicians and others.

Carlo Bolzonella, who knew him, said that ”Father Placido was an angel, he had amazing charity, he was a friar who was truly all heart.”

”I once saw him weep because he couldn’t help all those who were imploring him. He helped the Jews and to this end he often asked me for two workers who later went on to Como and Switzerland,” he added.

When the Gestapo began to look for him, Father Placido decided to stay in his monastery, which enjoyed papal extraterritoriality.

Subsequently, on Oct. 8, 1944, with the pretext of helping a person, he was lured out of the monastery and arrested by the Nazis.

Some eyewitnesses say that during the interrogations, despite unheard of tortures, Father Placido assumed all responsibility and did not reveal the name of a single collaborator in the charity network.

Slovenian Colonel Vladimiro Vauhnih, head of the pro-Allies information network, reported that ”the Gestapo took out the eyes of the religious, cut his tongue off, and buried him alive.”

Father Placido was 37 when he died. His cause of beatification opened in January, 2002 in Trieste, the place where he was tortured, whom people already call the ”Paduan Father Kolbe.”

The biography of the blessed is entitled ”Father Placido Cortese: Victim of Nazism,” and is available in Italian from Messaggero di S.Antonio Editrice.