This weekend Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will beatify a Romanian priest who died in a Communist prison camp in 1954. Msgr. Vladimir Ghika, who was tortured and left to die of hunger and cold in Jilava prison, will be beatified during a Mass in Bucharest on Saturday, and will be considered a martyr.
“Martyrdom isn’t just a phenomenon of Christianity’s first centuries,” said Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest. “People gave their lives for the faith in recent memory and are still doing so in large numbers now.”
A brief biography of the new beatus, who was a convert from Orthodoxy, from Catholic News Service’s Jonathan Luxmoore:
Mgr Ghika was born on December 25, 1873, in Istanbul, where his father was Romania’s representative at the Ottoman court. He was one of six children in an Orthodox family. He studied in Paris and in Toulouse, France, his mother’s home country, and received a theology doctorate in 1898 at Rome’s Dominican College.
He was received into the Catholic Church on April 15, 1902, but was persuaded by Pope Pius X, whom he knew personally, to remain a lay man in order to evangelise more effectively among non-Catholics.
After aiding the sick in Thessaloniki, Greece, he moved to Bucharest, where he founded Romania’s first free clinic, as well as a hospital and sanatorium, before returning to France to care for the displaced and wounded during the First World War.
In 1921, he was awarded the Legion of Honor for helping restore France’s diplomatic ties with the Holy See. On October 7, 1923, he was ordained in Paris and was authorised to conduct liturgies in both the Latin and Eastern Catholic rites.
He befriended prominent Catholics such as writers Jacques Maritain and Paul Claudel while ministering in the rough quarter of Villejuif. In the 1930s, he also travelled widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas as a representative of Pope Pius XI.
Mgr Ghika returned to Romania at the outbreak of the Second World War to organise help for refugees and bombardment victims.
Having rejected advice to leave the country after the Communists seized of power, he was arrested on November 18, 1952, for refusing to break ties with the Vatican, and survived more than 80 violent interrogations before being sentenced to three years’ incarceration at Romania’s infamous Jilava prison, where he died, emaciated, on May 16, 1954.