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San Benedetto, one of the Roman churches that saved Jews during World War II

2014-03-23

Behind the ordinary brick walls of its entrance, the Roman parish of San Benedetto hides quite a story. It opened its doors to Jews during the  World War II to keep them from being taken to concentration camps like Auschwitz.

On October 16, 1943, also known as 'Black Saturday,' the SS raided the Rome ghetto. The family of Attilio Di Veroli escaped and knocked at the doors of San Benedetto. Father Giovanni Gregorini, then in charge of the parish, took them in.

F. FABIO BARTOLI
Parish priest, San Benedetto
"The following days, Attilio Di Veroli, probably sent by Father Gregorini, or at least with his permission, went out to look for more Jewish families that had escaped from the raid. In the end, this parish welcomed and hid around 40 or 50 people.”

Father Bertoli also explains that the Jewish families remained in the church until 1944. The men lived there, while women had to stay at a convent near by.

They were never forced to baptize, but had to pretend and act like everyone else.

F. FABIO BARTOLI
Parish priest, San Benedetto
"Now it's funny to remember how one of the survivors, then a little girl, said that when she went to Mass, she kept repeating to herself the Shema Yisrael, the prayer of the Jews. That way she could, so to speak, avoid all the Catholic influence of those around celebrating Mass.”

In the parish offices there's a painting that celebrates the help given to Jewish families those years. The Jewish community of Rome specifically gave it to thank the courage of Father Gregorini. A courage that goes beyond tributes: for the current parish priest, Father Gregorini was the example of a "Roman priest.”


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