Today I had an email from one of our friends in the Czech Republic (with photo) that he was just married in Pilsen, so thought it appropriate to do a Blog on this new Blessed of the Church. I visited the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1998 and still think fondly of the beauty of the countries and the people.
BL. BASIL HOPKO was born in the Rusyn village of Hrabské, in the Sáros County of the Kingdom of Hungary (present-day eastern Slovakia). His parents, Basil and Anna, were landless peasants. While Basil was still an infant, his father was struck by lightning and died. His mother left him in care of her father, while she emigrated to the United States in search of work. When Basil was 7 he was sent to live with his uncle Demeter Petrenko, a Greek Catholic priest.
He attended the Evangelical gymnasium in Prešov, then Czechoslovakia, graduating with honors in 1923. He then studied at the Eparchial Seminary in Prešov. He had dreams of joining his mother in
, and of pursuing his
priestly vocation there, but the cost of recurring health problems left him
unable to afford to travel. He later wrote that when he finally decided to stay
and to serve in his homeland, he was suddenly cured, and realized he had been
given a sign about his calling. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest on 3
February 1929. America
He served as a pastor till 1936 at the Greek Catholic parish in Prague, the Czechoslovak capital, where he was known for his focus on the poor, the unemployed, and students. His mother returned from
after 22 years and rejoined her son in ,
becoming his housekeeper at the parish rectory. Prague
In 1936 he returned to teach in Prešov's Eparchial Seminary, and was awarded the title of monsignor. He had already begun graduate studies at Charles University while in
and completed his Doctor of Theology in 1940 at Comenius University in Bratislava.
In Prešov he headed the eparchy's
publishing division, where he edited a monthly periodical.
After World War II, a growing Soviet Bolshevik influence caused Bishop Pavol Peter Gojdič of Prešov (our next Blog) to ask the Vatican for an Auxiliary Bishop to help defend the Greek Catholic Church. Bl. Basil was appointed to the post in 1947. The Communist take-over of
wreaked havoc on the Greek Catholic Church. In 1950 it was officially
abolished, and its assets were turned over to the Russian Orthodox Church. Bishop Gojdič was
arrested and imprisoned for life. Bl. Basil was arrested on 28 April 1950 and
kept on starvation rations and tortured for weeks. Eventually he was tried and
sentenced to 15 years for the "subversive activity" of staying loyal
to Czechoslovakia . He was
repeatedly transferred from prison to prison. His health, physical and
emotional, failed, and in 1964 he was transferred to an old age home. He never
recovered his health. Rome
During the Prague Spring the Czechoslovak government legally cleared Bl. Basil on 13 June 1968 and the Prešov Eparchy was restored. However, activists insisted that a Slovak bishop be appointed to the See, and the
named the Slovak priest Ján Hirka as Bl. Basil’s successor. Vatican
Bl. Basil died in Prešov at age 72 on 23 July 1976. On 14 September 2003 Pope John Paul II beatified him at a ceremony in
. His steadfast loyalty to the Holy See, his great love of the people, and his
dedicated pastoral work as Bishop, has earned him a place in the hearts of his people. Bratislava, Slovakia