For 50 years, the Greek Catholics of Romania have remembered seven Romanian bishops who were martyred for their faith.
Pope Francis beatified the seven who were martyred under the communist regime in Romania during a Divine Liturgy in the Romanian city of Blaj on June 2, 2019.
The Greek Catholic Church was banned when the communists took power after World War II and believers were only allowed to worship again freely after communism ended.
Thousands of Greek Catholic priests were incarcerated in communist prisons in the 1950s and early 1960s.
All seven were arrested in 1948 and left to die of hunger, exposure, disease, or the effects of hard labour, and then buried in unmarked graves, Vatican News reported.
“These men were true and good shepherds, and through both their lives and their deaths, they taught their people how to respond to the injustice, suffering, and challenges to their faith which were inflicted upon them” by Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and communism, according to Catholic World report.
Romania was under Soviet occupation and ruled by Nicolae Ceausescu, when Iuliu Hossu returned there after completing his theology studies in Rome. He spent 22 years in prison. His last words were: „My battle is over, yours continues”. He never knew that Pope Paul VI had created him a Cardinal „in pectore” in 1969.
Vasile Aftenie also studied in Rome. A year after his arrest he was transferred to the infamous Ministry of the Interior where he suffered terrible torture and eventually died of his injuried inflicted on him in 1950.
In 1929 Ioan Balan was appointed to the Vatican Commission to draw up the new Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches. After his arrest in 1948, he was placed in solitary confinement and died in 1959 without ever being tried or sentenced.
Valeriu Traian Frentiu
Valeriu Traian Frentiu was ordained a bishop when he was only 37 years of age. Also arrested in 1948, he spent the rest of his life in a concentration camp. When he died in 1952, his body was thrown into an unmarked grave.
Ioan Suciu was ordained a priest in 1931. He too died of hunger and disease while in prison. In his last letter to the faithful before his arrest, he wrote: “Do not be deceived by vain words, promises, lies… We cannot sell Christ or the Church”.
Tito Liviu Chinezu
Tito Liviu Chinezu was born in 1904. He was ordained a bishop in prison by those bishops who were themselves prisoners. When the secret of his ordination leaked out, he was transferred to a prison where he died of cold and hunger.
Alexandru Rusu was consecrated bishop in 1931. Arrested in 1948, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for instigation and high treason. He died in 1963 and was buried in the prison cemetery without any religious rite.
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