VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II put seven people on the road to possible sainthood yesterday, beatifying a victim of the Nazis, an Armenian archbishop killed by the Ottoman Turks and five founders or members of religious orders.
Among them was Nikolaus Gross, a German father of seven who voiced opposition to the Nazis and edited a Catholic workers newspaper that was shut down by the regime. Gross was executed in 1945 in a German prison.
His beatification was one of the most controversial in recent times because his son has opposed the church's decision to lift his father toward sainthood.
When the Nazis came to power in the 1930s, Gross was editor of the Westdeutschen Arbeitszeitung, a Catholic-backed newspaper for workers in the industrial Ruhr Valley. Until the paper was shut down in 1938, Gross refused to publish any photos of Hitler or other leading Nazis.
"Gross recognized that Nazi ideology did not fit in with Christian faith, and with courage he used his pen to write in favor of human dignity," the 81-year-old pontiff told a crowd of thousands at a Mass in St. Peter's Square.
Gross' son, Alexander Gross, has been a vocal opponent of his father's beatification, accusing the church of failing to take an active role in the fight against Nazism.
"The difficult and often solitary decisions taken by Christian men and women (to fight against the Nazis) were taken against the interests and advice handed out by bishops," he was quoted as saying in the Italian weekly Venerdi.
One of the thorniest issues still facing the Vatican is whether Pope Pius XII did all he could to oppose the Nazis and stop the persecution of Jews. In Germany five years ago, John Paul said not enough of the faithful had followed the example of the courageous people who defied Hitler.
The other martyr beatified yesterday was Ignazio Maloyan, an Armenian archbishop killed in 1915 during the Ottoman campaign to force Armenians out of eastern Turkey.
Also recognized were Alfonso Maria Fusco, Italian founder of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist; Tommasso Maria Fusco, the Italian founder of the Institute of the Daughters of Charity of the Precious Blood; Emilie Tavernier Gamelin, founder of the Sisters of Providence of Montreal; Eugenia Picco, an Italian-born member of the Little Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Maria; and Maria Euthymia Ueffing, a German member of the Sisters of Mercy.
John Paul has beatified 1,267 people as part of his effort to give the faithful many role models. He has elevated more than 450 to sainthood. In comparison, in the previous four centuries, 1,310 candidates were beatified and 300 raised to sainthood.