Pavel Djidjov

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Pavel Djidjov (July 19, 1919 – October 3, 1952) was a Bulgarian theologian who was executed after a show trial and beatified in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.

Education, career[edit]

Pavel Djidjov was born to a Latin rite Catholic family in Plovdiv. He was baptized on August 2 and given the name Joseph. He took the name Pavel (Paul) when he entered the Assumptionist novitiate in Nozeroy, France, in October, 1938.

To achieve his childhood ambition of attaining priesthood, he entered the Assumptionist-sponsored St. Augustine College in Plovdiv, where he was considered a good student, especially in mathematics. After his novititate, he went on to study theology in Lormoy, France, near Paris, during World War II. For health reasons he returned to Bulgaria in 1942 to complete his theological studies and was ordained on January 26, 1945. He later continued his studies in economics and social sciences. His first assignment was as a teacher at the Assumptionist high school in Varna, where he was closely watched by the secret police. Not long thereafter he was named to be the treasurer at St. Augustine College in Plovdiv and served there until the institution was closed by the Communists in 1948.

He was particularly appreciated by students and others for his piety, sense of humor, deep faith, ecumenical spirit, and bravery before the Communist regime. Often he risked personal safety by defending the rights of the Church in public and visiting political prisoners.

Arrest and trial[edit]

As a Soviet satellite, Bulgaria suffered from the wave of anti-Church legislation that swept the bloc in the years after World War II (e.g. the arrest of Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac in Yugoslavia in 1946, of Cardinal József Mindszenty in Hungary in 1948, of Archbishop Josef Beran in Czechoslovakia in 1950, and of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in Poland in 1953). Already as a student in 1945, Djidjov had engaged in polemics with Communist students and professors and was placed on a blacklist.[1]

A month before his arrest in July 1952, he wrote to the Assumptionist procurator in Rome, Fr. Rémi Kokel, concerning a colleague they hadn't heard from in a long time: "We are distressed, having heard nothing of Fr. Josaphat (Chichkov) for six months now. There will be three trials within a week against Catholic priests. The first one is already over: death penalty for a diocesan priest of the Latin rite. Tomorrow it will be the trial of a diocesan priest of the Slavonic rite, in Sofia; the day after tomorrow, that of a Capuchin. And these will not be the last ones, surely. May God’s will be done."[citation needed] One month later he, too, was imprisoned.

Besides Djidjov, two other Assumptionist brothers were imprisoned: Fr. Joseph Chichkov and Fr. Kamen Vitchev. The latter followed the Byzantine Rite, whereas the others followed the Latin Rite—in their martyrdom, they united the two main Catholic rites,[2] a point reiterated by Pope John Paul II in 2002.[3] All three had been schooled in Belgium and France, and were accused of spying for the French government.[4] After what international organizations universally considered a show trial, which began on September 29, 1952, and ended with a guilty verdict and a death sentence on October 3, the three, together with the Passionist bishop Eugene Bossilkov,[5] were shot to death in prison,[6] without public notice, at 11:30 PM, on November 11, 1952. Their bodies were buried in a communal grave and have not been recovered.[7]

Fr. Pavel Djidjov was declared a martyr for the faith and beatified by Pope John Paul II in Plovdiv on May 26, 2002.[8][9] The pope delivered a homily on the occasion, during his 2002 visit to Bulgaria. Later, he commented that the Eucharistic celebration during which he beatified Djidjov, Vitchev, and Chichkov was "the high point of my brief but intense visit in Bulgaria."[10]

On July 28, 2010, the Bulgarian parliament passed a law officially rehabilitating all of those who had been condemned by the People's Republic of Bulgaria in 1952, including Fr. Djidjov.