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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — A large Catholic family who were brutally murdered by Nazi soldiers for sheltering Jews during the Holocaust will be formally recognized by the Vatican as martyrs, Catholic News Agency reported Saturday.

Pope Francis signed the decree December 17 recognizing Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children as martyrs, approving their cause for beatification.

The decree comes 78 years after the Ulmas and their seven children were gunned down by Nazi soldiers in southeast Poland toward the end of the Second World War.

Vatican News reported that the Ulmas had been sheltering a Jewish family on their farm near the village of Markowa for a year and a half to protect them from the Holocaust, in which an estimated six million Jews were killed under Adolf Hitler’s genocide campaign.

According to Vatican News, the Ulmas chose to provide shelter for the Jewish family while being “aware of the risk to themselves and despite their financial straits,” since they were “moved by the commandment of love and the example of the Good Samaritan.”

The heroism ended in tragedy when, in the early morning of March 24, 1944, German soldiers surrounded the Ulmas’ farm and killed eight members of the Jewish family who had found sanctuary there.

The Nazis then turned their guns on Józef and his wife Wiktoria, who was pregnant with their seventh child, as well as the family’s six small children who ranged in age from just two years old to eight. The children’s names were Stanisław (8), Barbara (7), Władysław (6), Franciszek (4), Antoni (3), and Maria (2), CNA reported.

Under Pope Francis’ December 17 decree, all the members of the Ulma family will be beatified as martyrs. Vatican News noted that “[t]he children shared in the operative faith of their parents, while the unborn child in Wiktoria’s womb received a baptism of blood.”

CNA reported that The World Holocaust Remembrance Center has already honored the Ulmas as “Righteous Among the Nations” for giving up their lives in their effort to protect the Jewish family from the concentration camps.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, a practicing Catholic and outspoken proponent of family values, reacted to the decree in a Thursday tweet, holding up the Ulma family’s ultimate sacrifice as an enduring representation of heroism.

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“For helping and hiding Jews, the Ulma Family (Polish family) was murdered by the Nazi Germans,” Duda said. “Their heroism is a symbol and the memory of them will last.”

“The Holy Father has approved the decree on the martyrdom of the Ulma Family, which opens the way to their beatification,” he explained.

Pope Francis’ decision to formally recognize the Ulmas’ martyrdom came amid a bevy of other causes for canonization that the pontiff also advanced on December 17, his 86th birthday. Vatican News reported that 10 holy people will be beatified and 14 will be regarded as “venerable.”

Among those named as “venerable” were Father Aleksander Woźny, who CNA described as “a diocesan priest of Poznan, Poland, who survived imprisonment in concentration camps in Buchenwald and Dachau.” Woźny was born in 1910 and died in 1983. The pope also recognized as “venerable” another Polish Catholic priest, Father Ignacy Posadzy, who co-founded the Society of Christ to assist Polish people undergoing tyranny during both the Second World War and the communist regime. Posadzy was born in 1898 and died in 1984.