Fr. Placido Cortese (Cres, 7 March 1907 – Trieste, 3 November 1944), Franciscan Conventual who spent most of his life in Italy, especially in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, could soon be beatified, as a martyr of nazism, similarly as the St. Maximilian Kolbe and many other priests and religious. It is for this very reason, as well as owing to some other similarities with St. Maximilian, that he is often referred to as the “Cres Kolbe”.
Apart from regular priestly and religious commitments and duties, for 7 years he was running the monthly “Messaggero di sant’Antonio” (The Messenger of St. Anthony), raising its circulation from 300 000 to 800 000 copies a month, in spite of WWII. Just like Kolbe, he established a local printing office to facilitate publishing and expand it even more. He wrote many articles, letters and sermons, while he was also very fond of taking photographs.
He always remained connected with his homeland, and especially with his family: his sister and other relatives in his native Cres. Kind, simple, and sensitive to the needs of his neighbours, he soon became the ideal person for helping refugees, displaced persons, as well as detained and arrested people in the area of Veneto. Owing to a whole network of associates, he was helping to save displaced Croats, Slovenians, Czechs, Slovaks, Jews, arrested allied forces pilots and other people in need of help while escaping from Nazi persecution.
On 13 October 1944, two of his friends and associates betrayed him, turning him over to the Nazis. There was no trace of him after that. Only after several decades of investigation, it was established that he was taken to Trieste, to the Gestapo’s seat. He was questioned and brutally tortured, in order to betray his associates. According to the testimonies of those who saw him in Trieste, his torturers dug his eyes out and cut off his tongue, finishing him up by torture in first days of November, when he was only 37 years old. His body was most probably cremated in a nearby incineration plant.
His love for the fellow men, all the way unto death, not being afraid of it and not running away from it just to help those in need, are a safe sign that he was indeed a man, a priest and a friar who deserves to soon be beatified, and then also canonized.