Ahead of his visit to Romania, Pope Francis agreed to the beatification of 7 Greek-Catholic bishops who were victims of the communist dictatorship in Romania
On Tuesday, Pope Francis signed a decree on the beatification of the
7 Romanian Greek-Catholic bishops who sacrificed their lives for faith.
According to the official website of the Holy See, they are Valeriu Traian
Frentiu, Vasile Aftenie, Ioan Suciu, Tit Liviu Chinezu, Ioan Balan, Alexandru
Rusu and Iuliu Hossu. All of them died in communist prisons or under strict
political police surveillance between 1950 and 1970, because they refused to
trade their freedom for renouncing their religion. Romania has never
experienced religious wars, Inquisition practices or burnings at the stake.
the royal Constitution of 1923, the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches, both
having made tremendous contributions to the accomplishment of the Great Union of
1918, were defined as national faiths. The Greek Catholic belief was outlawed
by the communist regime shortly after World War II, at the orders and following
the example of the Soviet occupiers, which would not tolerate the spiritual
authority of the Vatican on the believers this side of the Iron Curtain. Just
like in western Ukraine, Romanian Greek Catholicism was prohibited, and its
property either nationalised, or transferred to the Orthodox Church.
"My battle is done, yours must go on," Bishop Iuliu Hossu reportedly
said on his deathbed. His faith became legal once again after the
anti-communist revolution of 1989, and the Greek Catholic Church regained some
of its assets. In the latest census, 86.5% of the citizens of Romania declared
their affiliation to the Orthodox faith, only 4.6% declared themselves
Roman-Catholic and less than 1% Greek Catholic.
According to the Greek Catholic Bishop of Cluj, Florin Crihalmeanu,
the beatification ceremony might be performed by Pope Francis himself, in Blaj,
at the famous Field of Liberty, a place of paramount symbolic importance for
the identity of Transylvanian Romanians. This may well be the climax of the
visit His Holiness will pay to Romania between May 31st and June 2nd.
Under the motto "Let's Walk Together," the Pope will visit the capital city
Bucharest, Iasi, the largest city in the east of the country and home to a
sizeable Roman-Catholic community, Blaj in the centre, which is the spiritual
capital of Romanian Greek-Catholics, and the Marian shrine in Sumuleu Ciuc, in
the centre of Romania.
According to the Patriarchy spokesman Vasile Banescu, the visit has
been confirmed and it highlights the good relations between the Romanian
Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church. In 1999, Romania was the first
country with an Orthodox majority ever to be visited by a Sovereign Pontiff.
Invited by the Christian Democrat President Emil Constantinescu and the then
Orthodox Patriarch, Teoctist, John Paul II was received with love and
enthusiasm by hundreds of thousands of Romanians, who, regardless of their
faith, saw him as "the most beloved Pope in history" and a man who had played a
vital role in the ousting of communist dictatorships.