Pavel Peter Gojdič

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Pavel Gojdič
Pavol Godjic.jpg
Bishop Pavel Peter Gojdič
Born (1888-07-17)17 July 1888
Ruské Pekľany, Austria-Hungary
Died 17 July 1960(1960-07-17) (aged 72)
Leopoldov, Czechoslovakia
Honored in
Catholic Church
Beatified 4 November 2001 by Pope John Paul II
Canonized pending
Feast 17 July

Pavel Peter Gojdič, also known as Pavol Gojdič or Peter Gojdič (17 July 1888 — 17 July 1960), was a 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 recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2007.

Early life[edit]

Pavel Gojdic (pronunciation Goydich) was born on July 17, 1888 at Ruske Peklany near Presov, the third child of the Greek Catholic (Byzantine Catholic) priest Stefan Gojdic; his mother's name was Anna Gerberyova. He received the name of Peter in baptism.[1]

Peter attended elementary school at Cigelka, Bardejov and Presov, finishing his primary studies at Presov in 1907. He began his study of theology at Presov and continued them a year later at the major seminary Budapest. He and his brother Cornelius were ordained on August 27, 1911, after which Fr. Peter worked for a brief period as assistant parish priest with his father.[1]

Pastoral work[edit]

Coat of Arms of Bishop Pavel Peter Gojdic, Eparch of Presov

In the fall of 1912, after a short period of pastoral work, he was appointed prefect of the Eparchial Boarding School for boys in Prjashev, known as "The Alumneum." At the same time he became an instructor of religion in the city's higher secondary schools.[2] He was also entrusted with the spiritual care of the faithful in Sabinov as assistant parish priest. Father Gojdich 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 Father Gojdich entered St. Nicholas Monastery on Chernecha Hora, near Mukachevo, where taking the habit on January 27, 1923 he took the name Pavel.[1]

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.[2] 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 Nyaradi, 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 faint symbol of the heavy crosses that God will send you, my son, in your work as bishop“.[3]

Father Pavel had been named Apostolic Administrator of the eparchy of Presov on September 14, 1926. The first official act of Pavol Gojdič in his office as newly appointed administrator of the eparchy of Prešov was to address a pastoral letter on the occasion of the 1100 anniversary of the birth of St. Cyril, apostle of the Slavs. Fr. Pavel was proud of his Slavic heritage and was very fond of his oriental rite.[3]

Bishop[edit]

In 1940 the Pope appointed him Bishop of Presov (Prjasev); and for the year 1939 Apostolic Administrator of Mukacheve. The bishop had great devotion to the Virgin Mary and held in his residential chapel a picture of the Virgin of Klokočov, to whose protection he entrusted himself and the whole eparchy.[3]

During the period before the war he had to defend the Ruthenians and others against the onslaught of Slovak nationalism. From the very beginning of their persecution in Slovakia Gojdic spoke up openly in favor of Jews. On January 25, 1939, two days after the establishment of a special committee by the Slovak autonomist government charged with defining the "Program for the Solution of the Jewish Question," the bishop wrote a letter addressed to all parishes in his Prešov diocese. In the letter, he predicted disastrous results caused by these discriminative policies. After the Slovak parliament confirmed a special law permitting the expulsion of Jews from Slovakia, Gojdic wrote a protest against the cruel deportations of Slovak Jewry, which were being carried out by the clerical Hlinka party.[4]

During the war the bishop helped refugees and prisoners, and rescued 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 under cover. According to the security service report, Gojdic had held a conversion ceremony in the town of Michalovce.[4]

After the end of hostilities, those who had been saved by Gojdic foresaw that his wartime actions would not be well received by the Communist regime and offered to help him emigrate to the West. However, Gojdic refused to leave his post as bishop.[4] Foreseeing the Communist takeover, with the help of a new auxiliary, Bishop Hopko, 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 and the power of the State, even though he knew he was risking persecution and arrest; maybe even death. Even though 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.[3]

Memorial to Bishop Gojdič at the Leopoldov cemetery

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 president of Czechoslovakia Antonín Zápotocký, but to no avail.[4] In January 1951, in a trial set up against the so-called 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. He never complained, despite torture, humiliation and isolation. Following the amnesty in 1953, given by State President A. 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.[3]

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.[3] 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.

Veneration[edit]

In 1968, his remains were moved to Presov (Prjasev) and since 1990 have been kept in a sarcophagus in the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist. On 4 November 2001, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II, who during his historic visit in Slovakia, while visiting Prešov, prayed at the tomb of this bishop-martyr in the chapel of the cathedral.[3]

Bishop Pavol Gojdič was legally rehabilitated on 27 September 1990. Subsequently he was decorated posthumously with the Order of T. G. Masaryk - II class, and with the Cross of Pribina - 1st class.[3]

He was officially honored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in 2008 as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.[4]

Legacy[edit]

"I am certain that at the end truth will triumph over lies, and love will overcome hatred. I do not hate my enemies. I would like to bring them closer to Christ, of course not by force or deceit but by love and truth." [2]

"Known to the people as "the man with a heart of gold", he became known to the representatives of the government of the time as a real "thorn in the side". After the Communist regime made the Greek Catholic Church illegal, he was arrested and imprisoned. Thus for him began a long calvary of suffering, mistreatment and humiliation which brought about his death on account of his fidelity to Christ and his love for the Church and the Pope.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Dionýz Nyaradi
Bishop of Prešov
1940–1960
Succeeded by
Vasil' Hopko