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March 30: Father of the Jews

March 29, 2016

1223651576_201_BENOITCapuchin monk Father Marie-Benoît (Pierre Péteul), who provided transport for more than 4,000 Jews from Nazi-occupied France into Switzerland and Spain, was born in Bourg d’Iré, France on this date in 1895. Wounded in World War I, he took vows after the war and became a leading Christian expert on Judaism. Headquartered in a monastery in Marseilles during World War II, he ran a forging operation that created fake passports, baptismal certificates, and other identity documents in collaboration with the French resistance and Jewish groups. When the Nazis took over Southern France in 1942, Father Benoit, by then known as “Father of the Jews,” sought refuge for his charges in the Italian section of the Riviera and convinced Italian authorities not to persecute the 30,000 or so Jews living in the Nice region. Father Benoit was honored by Italy’s Jewish community following the liberation of Rome in June 1944 and was recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem as a “Righteous Among the nations” on December 1, 1966.

“We Christians claim to be the spiritual children of the patriarch Abraham. This should be enough to exclude any kind of anti-Semitism whatsoever, anti-Semitism being an ideology which we Christians cannot in any way share and be part of.” —Father Marie-Benoit