Friday, August 12, 2016


BLESSED PAVEL PETER GOJDIC was a Rusyn-Slovak Basilian monk and the bishop of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Prešov. He was martyred by the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001 and recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2007.
Pavel Gojdic (pronunciation Goydich) was born In 1888 at Ruske Peklany near Presov, the third child of the Byzantine Catholic priest Stefan Gojdic and his wife Anna Gerberyova. He received the name of Peter in baptism.
Peter began his study of theology at Presov and continued them a year later at the major seminary in Budapest. He and his brother Cornelius were ordained on August 27, 1911, after which Father Peter worked for a brief period as assistant parish priest with his father.
In the fall of 1912, after a short period of pastoral work, he was appointed prefect of the Eparchial Boarding School for boys in Presov, known as "The Alumneum." At the same time he became an instructor of religion in the city's higher secondary schools. He was also entrusted with the spiritual care of the faithful in Sabinov as assistant parish priest. Father Peter was appointed to the Bishop's Chancery Office, where eventually he achieved the rank of Chancellor. A career as a diocesan administrator did not attract him, so he decided to become a Basilian monk. On July 20, 1922 he entered St. Nicholas Monastery on Chernecha Hora, near Mukachevo, where taking the habit on January 27, 1923 he took the name Pavel (Paul).

Appointed Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, he became instrumental in spreading the practice of frequent confession and Holy Communion throughout the Eparchy of Mukachevo. He usually spent long hours, mostly at night, in the chapel before the tabernacle. In 1927 he was appointed titular Bishop of Harpasa and was consecrated on 25 March in the Roman Basilica of San Clemente.
After his episcopal ordination he visited the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, where he prayed on the tomb of the Apostle. On March 29, 1927, together with Bishop Njaradi, he was received in a private audience by Pope Pius XI. The pope gave Bishop Pavol a gold pectoral cross, saying: "This cross is only a symbol of all those heavy crosses that you will have to carry during your episcopal ministry.“
Bishop Pavel had been named Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Presov on September 14, 1926. His first official act of office was to address a pastoral letter on the occasion of the 1100th anniversary of the birth of St. Cyril, apostle of the Slavs. Bishop Pavel was proud of his Slavic heritage and was very fond of his oriental rite.
In 1940 the Pope appointed him Bishop of Presov, and for the year 1939 Apostolic Administrator of Mukacheve.
During the period before World War II, he decided to defend the Ruthenians (Belarusians, Russians, Ukrainians and Rusyns).
During the war the bishop helped refugees and prisoners, and rescued the inmates of concentration camps. On October 26, 1942, Slovak security services informed the Ministry of the Interior of a high number of fictitious conversions taking place. The report pointed out several cases where only one member of a Jewish family converted to Christianity in order to protect all the other members. Out of 249 Jewish families, 533 Jews had converted to the Greek Catholic or Russian Orthodox faith in order to rescue some 1500 other members of their families, who had not converted; moreover, most of those who had converted continued to actively practice Judaism either in the open or undercover. 

 After the end of hostilities, those who had been saved by Bishop Pavel foresaw that his wartime actions would not be well received by the new Communist government and offered to help him emigrate to the West. However, he refused to leave his post as bishop. Foreseeing the Communist takeover, with the help of a new auxiliary, Bishop Hopko (see previous Blog), he launched a campaign to reinforce the faith of his people by mobilizing every possible means: visits, missions, retreats, the press and the radio. Bishop Gojdič resisted any initiative to submit the Greek Catholics to Russian Orthodoxy, assisted by the Communist Party, while he knew he was risking persecution, arrest and maybe even death. Even though he was put under severe pressure to renounce the Catholic faith and break unity with the Pope, he refused every offer. Gradually he was isolated from the clergy and the faithful.

On 28 April 1950, the Communist state outlawed the Greek Catholic Church and Bishop Pavel was arrested and interned. Jewish witnesses wrote a letter in his defense to the then-Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia Antonín Zápotocký, but to no avail. In January 1951, in a trial set up against three 'high treason' bishops (Vojtaššák, Buzalka, and Gojdič) he was given a life sentence. Transferred from one prison to another, he remained faithful, praying and saying Mass in secret, despite facing torture. Following an amnesty in 1953, given by Zapotocký, his life sentence was changed to 25 years detention. He was then 66 and his health continued to deteriorate, yet all further requests for amnesty were refused.
At the prison of Ruzyň an official informed him that from there he could go straight to Prešov, on condition that he was willing to become patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia. He rejected the offer as an infidelity to the Pope and the faithful, and remained in prison.

He died of terminal cancer in the prison hospital of Leopoldov Prison in 1960, on his 72nd birthday. He was buried in an anonymous grave, n. 681, in the cemetery.
Blessed Pavel once said:: "For me, it is not important if I die in the Bishop's Palace or in prison; what matters is entering into Paradise". 


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