Priest who defied Nazis beatified

Germans in Pope Benedict XVI's home state of Bavaria celebrated Sunday the beatification ceremony of a priest who was honored for practicing his Roman Catholic faith in defiance of the Nazis.

The pope, who grew up in Bavaria, sent Cardinal Angelo Amato from the Vatican to celebrate the beatification Mass for Georg Haefner in Wuerzburg Cathedral, the DAPD news agency reported.

During his traditional Sunday greetings to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the pope, who grew up in Bavaria and was forced by the Nazis to serve as a teen in the Hitler Youth, praised Haefner.

"In the confusion of National Socialism, Georg Haefner was willing, as a faithful shepherd, to protect his flock and deliver the sacrament and the water of life to many people, until the end of his life," the pope said, speaking in German.

"He forgave those who wronged him and in a letter to his parents from prison, he wrote, 'We want to be at peace with everyone.'"

Haefner died of hunger and disease in Dachau concentration camp in 1942.

Friedhelm Hofmann, the bishop of Wuerzburg, said Haefner represented all members of the Catholic church who perished for their faith during the Nazi-era.