I was doing a bit of research on something else, and came across this wonderful true story out of World War II, as recorded at The Righteous Among the Nations “Featured Stories” section at Yad Vashem’s website. This particular story begins:
Assisi is the home of Francesco di Bernardone – St. Francis of Assisi – the founder of the Roman Catholics’ Franciscan and St. Clare (Poor Clares) Orders. As such it is a most meaningful place for Roman Catholics. No Jewish community was ever known to exist in Assisi. Paradoxically however, the only time in history when there is record of Jews living in Assisi is during the Holocaust, when the town and its churches, monasteries and convents became a safe haven for several hundred Jews.
Shortly after the Germans occupation, when the man-hunt for Jews began, the Bishop of Asssisi, Monsignor Giuseppe Placido Nicolini, ordered Father Aldo Brunacci to head the rescue operation of Jews and to arrange sheltering places in some 26 monasteries and convents. The Bishop went as far as to authorize the hiding of Jews in such places that were regularly closed to outsiders by the monastic regulations of the “clausura”. The Committee of Assistance Monsignor Niclolini had put in place and that he presided transformed Assisi into a shelter for many Jews; others who were passing through the town were provided with false papers enabling them to survive in other places.
After the war Father Brunacci described the Bishop’s resolution in face of danger: “I will never forget how insistent those threats were, yet how determined the Bishop remained. He would not let anyone intimidate him from performing what he, as a pastor, was required to do. I recall very well the strength Monsignor Nicolini showed in the face of repeated alarms of the ‘big shots’ who felt it was their duty to suggest prudence and moderation. There are times in everyone’s life in which it is easy to confuse prudence with a calm life; there are times when heroism is required. Monsignor Nicolini took the path of heroism.”