An Italian priest who risked his life in 1944 to save dozens of Jews on Grand Island (Perugia, Italy) will be granted the title “Righteous Among the Nations,” the highest Jewish honor given.
The ceremony will take place Sept. 15 at the Israeli Embassy in Rome.
L’Osservatore Romano reported that on the night of June 19, 1944, Father Ottavio Posta, assisted by several fishermen, crossed Trasimeno Lake to rescue dozens of Jews who were imprisoned at the castle on Grand Island because of the racial laws of the time.
The Italian priest’s case was made known thanks to numerous testimonies as well as from the research of retired Archbishop Giuseppe Chiaretti of Perugia.
A letter from August of 1944 signed by several who were on Grand Island credited Fr. Posta for the rescue. It said his testimony was even more apparent “as the danger increased. He not only got the inhabitants of the island to bring us to shore where the English were, but he also braved the danger of crossing the lake with us, amidst machine-gun fire, giving a very clear witness to his parishioners.”
The Jews who signed the letter urged the bishop at the time to convey to Fr. Ottavio Posta their “gratitude for his unselfish act as a good shepherd.”
The Vatican newspaper featured a few excerpts from the remarks Archbishop Gualtiero Basseti of Perugia is expected to make at the Sept. 15 ceremony. “Today the Jewish community, by making your name known today and honoring you as righteous among the nations, does not simply invite us to a ceremony in which we look to the past. Wherever faith and hope in God is evoked, it is of the present and the future that we speak,” the archbishop will tell attendees.
The archbishop will also offer prayers that “the entire communion of saints will help us, and that your presence will illuminate us, Fr. Ottavio, from way atop Grand Island, where you are present among your parishioners now more than ever, as you desired.”
Fr. Posta remained a pastor on Grand Island until his death in 1963.