Krakow

Image via RNS/Reuters/Luca Zennaro/Pool

Pope Francis leaves on Monday, Oct. 31 for an overnight trip to Sweden, a historically Protestant country that today is one of the most secular in the world.

The visit is to mark the start of observances of next year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which traditionally dates from Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a German cathedral.

Naomi Nix 01-03-2014

Joe Barbella, 93, and Marsha Kreuzman, 90, embrace. Photo by Saed Hindash/The Star-Ledger. Via RNS.

It’s been almost 70 years, but Marsha Kreuzman still remembers the moment she laid outside the steps of a Nazi crematorium wishing she could die.

Kreuzman had already lost her mother, father, and brother to the Holocaust, and death seemed inevitable, she said.

But then an American soldier picked up her 68-pound body and whisked her to safety.

“I wanted to kiss his hand and thank him,” she said. “From the first day I was liberated, I wanted to thank them, but I didn’t know who to thank.”

Since then, the now-90-year-old Holocaust survivor has been on a decades-long quest to find American soldiers who liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp, one that didn’t have any success until she met Joe Barbella, two months ago, quite by chance.

Subscribe