Franz Jägerstätter var en østerriksk bonde litt utenom det vanlige. Han nektet å bære våpen for Hitler. For det ble han halshogd i 1943. Fredag ble han beatifisert i Linz. Enken på 94 år var til stede.

Austrian conscientious objector and martyr Franz Jaegerstaetter has been beatified at the cathedral in Linz, Upper Austria, for resisting the Nazi regime on grounds of his faith.

Jaegerstaetter, an Austrian farmer born on May 20, 1907, in the village of St Radegund, near Adolf Hitler’s birthplace of Braunau, paid with his life for his refusal to join the German Wehrmacht in 1941.

The father of three was beheaded in August 1943 at the age of 36.

Jaegerstaetter said he could not take it on his conscience to fight for Hitler.

The ceremony, taking place on Austria’s national holiday and conducted by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins representing Pope Benedict XVI, was attended by approximately 30 bishops.

Around 4,000 people attended mass in the tightly-packed cathedral, among them Jaegerstaetter’s widow Franziska, 94, and their three daughters.

«I always prayed to God that I may live to see this day,» Franziska, who had devoted her life to her husband’s rehabilitation, said ahead of the beatification.

The elderly lady was welcomed by the Linz congregation with loud applause. A reliquary casket containing some of the martyr’s ashes was presented to the church.

The deeply religious couple had been opposed to the Nazi regime, regarding it «godless».

In 1938, his family convinced Jaegerstaetter only with difficulty to participate in the so-called referendum for the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.

Both the Catholic Church and the Austrian state for a long time refused to accept his martyrdom and resistance.

It took the church until 1989 to start looking into the case and the beatification process was initiated in 1997. In the same year Germany revoked the death sentence against Jaegerstaetter.

«God was the centre of his life,» Bishop Ludwig Schwarz of the Linz diocese said.

Jaegerstaetter was a prophet, more clear-sighted than most of his contemporaries, and a symbol of pacifism.

«He gave his life with a clear conscience … and for human dignity,» the beatification decree read by Cardinal Martins said. (aap)