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Romanian Catholic bishop martyred by Communists beatified tomorrow

By on Friday, 16 May 2014

A sparrow rests on a barbed wire fence that surrounds prison where the bishop died

A sparrow rests on a barbed wire fence that surrounds prison where the bishop died

A Catholic bishop who was starved and forced to stand naked in winter will be beatified as a martyr in Romania, 63 years after dying of malnutrition in a communist prison.

The ceremony honoring Bishop Anton Durcovici, who served as head of the Diocese of Iasi at the time of his death, will take place tomorrow in the northeastern Romanian city’s municipal stadium with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, presiding.

“This is a great joy for the whole Catholic church here, and especially for his home-diocese,” said Bishop Petru Gherghel of Iasi.

“But it’s important for Romanian society as a whole, since he’s a figure of resistance, who gave an example to everyone by standing up for truth, dignity and freedom, as well as for devotion to the Christian faith,” the bishop told Catholic News Service yesterday.

Bishop Durcovici will be the first martyr from the Iasi Diocese to be declared blessed. Bishop Gherghel said that the end of the lengthy process for canonization would reward and encourage people still engaged in collecting documents and testimonies about communist-era martyrs.

“He was also deeply involved in educating and forming local people, so his fate teaches much about courage and faithfulness to the end,” Bishop Gherghel said.

“Our country produced many such witnesses and martyrs to the faith, who are still with us today – speaking to us in our lives and giving us fortitude to face the future.”

Born May 17, 1888, in Bad Deutsch-Altenberg, Austria, a town on the Danube River, the martyred bishop moved to Romania with his widowed mother and brother as a child, and enrolled at the Iasi seminary in 1906.

He gained degrees in canon law, philosophy and theology and two doctorates while studying at Rome’s Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, or Angelicum and serving with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He returned to Romania as a seminary teacher and parish administrator at his ordination in 1910.

Interned during the First World War because of his Austrian citizenship, Bishop Durcovici was later freed and became rector of the Catholic seminary in Bucharest in 1924.

In April 1948, he was consecrated bishop of Iasi by the Vatican’s then-apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gerald P. O’Hara, two years before the U.S.-born diplomat was expelled by Romania’s new communist regime.

In June 1949, Bishop Durcovici was arrested by Romania’s Securitate secret police with Bishop Aron Marton of Alba Iulia for refusing to omit references to papal authority from a new regime-sponsored statute regulating church activities.

Held at the notorious Jilava prison, Bishop Durcovici was transferred with other priests to Sighet prison, where he was tortured and denied food and water and stripped in winter weather.

Bishop Durcovici died of malnutrition in his cell on December 10, 1951, and was buried in an unmarked grave by communist officials, who attempted to erase all physical and documentary evidence of his stay in prison.

Witness accounts on the Iasi Diocese website said the bishop received final absolution through his cell door from a priest after calling on other inmates to pray for him.

The accounts reported different dates for the bishop’s death because of the total isolation of fellow prisoners, including Cardinal Iuliu Hossu (1885-1970) and Archbishop Ioan Ploscaru (1911-1998), although news of his deteriorating condition had been leaked by a sympathetic warden.

In a May 1 pastoral letter, Bishop Gherghel described the martyred bishop as a “flower of the local church,” who had carried “the cross of salvation and redemption” through his bitter sufferings.

Meanwhile, the current Vatican nuncio, Archbishop Francisco-Javier Lozano, and Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest, president of the Romanian bishops’ conference, told Austria’s Kathpress agency May 12 that they believed the beatification would assist interchurch ties by recalling shared communist-era sufferings in Romania, 87 percent of whose 23 million inhabitants are nominally Orthodox.

Austrian church leaders, and Catholics from the hometown of Bishop Durcovici are expected to attend the beatification Mass.

The bishop will be the fourth Romanian Catholic beatified as a communist-era martyr after Bishop Szilard Bogdanffy (1911-1953); Bishop Janos Scheffler (1887-1952); and Bishop Vladimir Ghika (1873-1954).



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  • Guest

    But who will care about that, while they have this vision to revere as a witness to …

    Is this soviet-era liberationist image really an icon of a Saint – a mirror of Christ’s saving Incarnation not His worldly usurper?

    Servant of God Archbishop Oscar Romero was, like his fellow slain ministers, a martyr for the Catholic Faith, in the style of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (if not Thomas More and the Martyrs of England and Wales). A determinedly reluctant ‘political’ Saint, slaughtered because he would not stand by and watch a reactionary government murder, torture, and burden its people, and his; not with banner waving, hemi-demi resurrection claims or communist teachings or anti-Church actions .. only with episcopal fidelity to the Catholic Church. As with Thomas Becket, any rigid personal obduracy, or appearance of mislead loyalty to the Church, was corrected from Rome after his martyrdom – without losing sight of the witnessing blood and to Whom it witnessed – but in Oscar Romero a false image has been crafted, a deceitful presentation offered, a lie, no lie, has been constructed by those hostile to the Faith both outside and inside the Catholic Church; a situation that must first be redressed, constantly asserted and recorded, and, just as unlikely from our beloved Pope Francis, a direct repudiation of the worldly conceit built around a truly saintly soul, a real genuine martyr, and faithful son of the Church.

    Fat chance – I hear the cry – of Rome in its present mood, let alone the Holy Father, ‘correcting’ any lying conceit or libertine hi-jack connection with Archbishop Romero, truly Blessed in memory, and soon, I trust, to be raised worthily to remembrance on the altars of the Catholic Church. Certainly it would be a thankless mountain of a task, but then with faith mountains have been known to leap, violently alas, and spewing all kinds of stunningly beautiful disaster about them, so perhaps I ask too much. Nonetheless, I demand it of our pastors, I importune them, here, now, publicly, to set out the Faith, repudiate each error, and call back the wayward .. not least on this wonderful Servant of God.

    Lord, help us all!

    May God bless our Pope!

    St Michael defend us in the day of battle!

  • mikethelionheart

    Everyone’s always trying to promote their blog.

  • Guest

    LOL, I didn’t know Oscar Romero had a blog .. though I guess his usurpers (Catholic Women Priests not least) may have this well in hand – and very few orthodox Catholics even treat this saintly soul seriously (including Eponymous Flower), rather they tend to kick out carelessly as they do against John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council .. all very silly, really.

    At least you’ll be glad to hear I have no intention of starting a blog (I mither on enough on this site to keep me otherwise quiet).



  • Andrew Milhurst

    Who is least in the kingdom of heaven?
    All heroic Christians need honouring. What an example they are. The saints are the most material reminder that the Holy Spirit has remained with the Church since the first Pentecost. No stronger proof, which is why regular reminders of their existence is so necessary. They all point, without equivocation, towards Jesus Christ.
    Examples of such courage and fortitude are exactly what the young need, especially young men.

  • TieHard

    go on … know you want to really…

  • Liturgically Abused

    I can understand this bishop being beatified; but as for a certain bishop of Rome’s forthcoming beatification, well, um …

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Re: the icon above: Shouldn’t the subject be holding a can of spinach in his hand, and have a corn-cob pipe in his mouth? And shouldn’t there be a word balloon containing the words, “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam”? Oh, and a sailor’s cap. (Mustn’t forget the cap!)

  • Guest

    Coo! Gercha! As if .. The fingers are willing but the mind is weak, and the spare farthings better spend elsewhere (than on Ego-ism LOL).



  • Guest

    It may not please you, L A, yet recognition at the altars of the Catholic Church – in recollection of heroic witness to Christ – is not measured by man’s pleasure but God’s grace .. even to befuddled souls and especially to weak vessels.

    Step outside your taste-area, just to distance yourself from the fleshly way, and see things in terms of the heavenly purpose – not least amid man’s failure, blindness and waywardness.

    Then look again at what the First and Second Vatican Council affirmed, and especially what Venerable Pope Paul VI actually taught (but fell far short in delivering).

    ‘The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock; it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter, was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head.’

    ‘This power of the supreme pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the Holy Spirit, tend and govern individually the particular flocks which have been assigned to them. On the contrary, this power of theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the supreme and universal pastor; for St Gregory the Great says: “My honour is the honour of the whole church. My honour is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I receive true honour, when it is denied to none of those to whom honour is due.”‘

    Which, then, is the teaching of Vatican I and which that of Vatican II, or are both from only one of the Councils? The one being Dogmatic the other Pastoral, both binding in their different ways on the Faithful. And this is so regardless if they are faithful to the Rock’s choice of rock or not!

    ‘In this way, by unity with the Roman pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith, the church of Christ becomes one flock under one supreme shepherd.’

    ‘And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion.’

    Reclaim Paul VI, John XXIII, and Pius XII, take back the presentation of what Vatican II said pastorally in fullest of unity with what Vatican I presented dogmatically, get up, go out, attend, prepare, then confront the Accuser on his own choice battlefield, especially in the Divine Liturgy, Sacred Tradition, and the visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion (don’t just heckle and hoot from the seeming security of an ivory tower those who do confront him, or mither on about those bore the brunt – because of their own human choices .. as Peter did).


  • lucio apollyon

    Jesus taught that the Pharisees of old did sing the praises of the men their fathers killed because they did not want to hear the voice of the Lord – Beatification of martyrs – betrayed by some of their own superior and colleagues – it is so hypocritical. The compromise of the Vatican with Ustashe and Communists in the Balkans…should make us hang our heads in shame. In the days in which the Church could have intervened -peacefully and efficiently – the typical Italian easy way out of not-intervention prevailed and did cost the life of too many.

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