Sainthood for a Jewish victim

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Sunday's canonization of Edith Stein has angered some in the Jewish community.

Stein, a nun gassed at Auschwitz in 1942, became the first Jewish-born woman to achieve sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Some call the gesture a slap in the face to the Jews. The church is sending the message, they say, that the best Jew is one who converts to Catholicism. They also say the move is offensive to Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

The criticisms are understandable.

Yet it must be remembered that Stein, who was baptized in 1922, well before the rise of Nazism, died, like other Holocaust victims, because she was a Jew.

In fact, she was offered a chance to escape deportation, but turned it down, saying, "Why should I be excluded? If I cannot share the fate of my brothers and sisters, my life is, in a certain way, destroyed."

Some have accused the Vatican of making Stein a saint to assuage its guilt for complying with the Nazis.

We cannot know the church's true motive for making the historic move.

Regardless, we were heartened to see Pope John Paul II using Stein's very public canonization ceremony as an opportunity to remember the suffering of the Jews.

"For the love of God and man, I once again raise my voice in a heartfelt cry; never again may such a criminal act be repeated against any ethnic group, any people, any race, in any corner of the earth!" the pope declared.

The pope said Catholics should mark Stein's saint's day as an annual commemoration for all the Holocaust's murdered Jews.

Should Catholics follow that call, millions worldwide will turn increased attention to the Holocaust.

Such an outcome of Stein's sainthood can only be viewed as positive.