Romania. A somber chapter: how “Orthodoxy” has persecuted Catholics.

Source: FSSPX News


“Our Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite, called “Greek-Catholic”, was suppressed by the communists on December 1st 1948, because it fought against atheism. The buildings were given to the schismatics (who call themselves orthodox). The faithful were forced to accept Orthodox priests (who share the same rite as we); but they made peace with the communist atheists. Already on October 28 1948, our bishops, six in number, were all arrested and transported to Bucharest. There, the Orthodox patriarch Justinian Marina entreated Prime Minister Petru Groza to leave them in his power, because he had a way to “get the Catholic faith out of their heads”. Therefore the Prime Minister left them to him. Thus, as personal prisoners of the Orthodox patriarch, they were taken to his villa in Dragoslavele, near Cimpulung (Muscel). The villa, today deserted, was turned into a prison. They surrounded it with barbed wire. They put soldiers from the Securitatea (secret police of the communist party) inside so that the bishops could not have any contact with each other for support, and soldiers outside so that no one could approach them. They remained there four months, during the winter of 1948/49. There was no heat, they suffered hunger, cold and isolation. Having no changes of clothes they ended up with lice. The Apostolic Nuncio at Bucharest received orders from the Holy See to consecrate six other bishops in their place, one of whom was the future Cardinal Todea. The number of our bishops thus rose to twelve, like the apostles. Pope Pius XII wrote to us in a letter: “It is something unique in the history of the Church, that all the bishops of a country accepted prison and death without one of them being prepared to go over to the persecutors.” It is truly something unique, for even among the apostles there was a traitor. The new bishops were also arrested, beaten and tortured, even more than the first ones.

In the month of February 1949, the Orthodox patriarch went to Dragoslavele. He thought they’d had enough, and that the Catholic faith had been drummed out of their heads. On this occasion he offered them a sumptuous dinner of grilled turkey, wine, cake and fruit, to show them how they could be living if they would only come over to the “Orthodox” church. Seeing that our bishops said nothing, he spoke up: “If you do not become Orthodox, I will remove my protecting hand from you and you will be sent to prison.” One should note that prison was less harsh than his protection. Therefore, Bishop Joan Balan of Lugoj responded: “Holiness, if we came to believe that the so-called Orthodox church is the true Church of Christ, we would then and there give our signatures to enter this Church. But how could we believe in this Church since you have allied yourselves with the atheists in order to kill and suppress us? You did not come to us with theological arguments, nor with Christian virtues, but you had us arrested and kept as prisoners. These are surely not the methods of Jesus Christ. If the government had proposed to give us the Orthodox Church of Romania on condition that we arrest her bishops, or only one of them, we would have given our lives rather than accept. Therefore you may take our lives, but not our faith.” The patriarch went away very disconcerted.

On May 1st, 1949, all the bishops were transported from Drogoslavele to the Orthodox Convent Caldarusani; the Orthodox also brought there 34 priests who had been detained at Neamt concentration camp. Here, at Caldarusani they formed a huge concentration camp. The buildings were surrounded by barbed-wire and guarded by the Securitatea (secret police). Bishop Vasile Aftenie was transported to Bucharest where he died as a result of torture. All the others were transported to Sighet, a prison on the Russian border, for in the case of war they would be moved into the Soviet Union. This was one of the harshest communist prisons. Here three of our bishops died: V. T. Freniu (July 11, 1952), Ioan Suciu (June 27, 1953) and T. L. Chinezu (January 15, 1955). Alexander Rusu of Baia Mare died at Gherla (May 9, 1963) and Vasile Aftenie at Bucharest (May 10, 1950). Those who died at Sighet and at Gherla were buried in the cemetery of the ‘Vagabonds and Suicides’, then the ground was leveled so no one would know where they were buried. Two of our bishops died in internal exile, that is, under house arrest: Ioan Balan died in the Orthodox monastery Ciorogarla (August 4, 1958) and Juliu Kossu, still under house arrest, in the Orthodox monastery Caldarusani (May 28 1970). After the imprisonment of bishops, priests and religious, the Romanian state confiscated our churches and gave them to the Orthodox. For forty years Catholic parishes remained priestless. The faithful had to choose between the Orthodox and neo-Protestant sects, for our dear Greek Catholic Church, united to Rome, was illegal. Now we are asking the government to give us back our churches, but for political reasons they want us to come to an understanding with the Orthodox bishops who are Stalinist. Only the cathedrals of Lugoj and Blaj have been returned to us. In the other dioceses, the priests and the faithful celebrate the Mass in the public square. In some parishes, the faithful chased away the Orthodox pastor and came back to us, along with their churches. Three of our bishops died after leaving prison; others were consecrated in their place. Among the older ones, only two are still alive: Cardinal Todea and myself. When God wills, all will be restored.” –

Bishop Ploscaru died in 1998, and Cardinal Todea in May 2002. Today, 538 churches and chapels have still not been restored to the Catholic Church, nor 387 rectories, all of which belonged to the Catholic Church until 1948, no to mention 220 school buildings which were also confiscated by the communists for the benefit of the Romanian Orthodox (figures published by APIC, Catholic International Press Agency, 2/28/2003).

The original of this testimony, published in French, is kept by the director of RU press agency, of UNEC, BP 114, F-95120 St.-Gratien, phone [011]-33-1-34-12-02-68, [email protected]