Romanian Bishop a Communist–era Martyr

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Catholic bishop from Romania will be beatified as a martyr almost six decades after dying from being doused in boiling water in a prison operated by his country’s former communist regime.

Bishop Janos Scheffler “was a pastor who risked everything to sustain the faith of Catholics and safeguard his church’s unity with Rome,” said Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest, president of the Romanian bishops’ conference.

“Having him officially recognized by the Catholic Church will provide a great impulse of joy and consolation, giving us a new model and new intercessor with God,” he said.

The archbishop spoke about preparations for the July 3 beatification of Bishop Scheffler (1887-1952) in the cathedral in Oradea, Romania. The bishop headed the Diocese of Oradea Mare and Satu Mare. The Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

In a June 28 interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Robu said the beatification was attracting considerable public interest in Romania, which has 12 Latin and Eastern Catholic dioceses serving about 5.6 percent of the population of 21.7 million, according to a 2002 census. The archbishop said the recognition of communist-era martyrs was a “point of ecumenical contact” with the country’s predominant Orthodox population.

“All Romanians are sensitive to such stories of witness and suffering, and the memory of Bishop Scheffler is still very much alive here, not only among Catholics,” Archbishop Robu said.

“Younger people may have trouble understanding the past epoch to which such figures belonged. But the idea of martyrdom surpasses historical periods — it speaks of the capacity for total devotion and risk, for the offering of life itself. These are values which can be readily appreciated by today’s young generation,” he said.

Named Bishop of Satu Mare in 1942 and of Ordea Mare in 1948, Bishop Scheffler was noted for his support for Catholic education and concern for social issues.

In 1950, as Romania’s new communist regime attempted to break the Catholic Church’s links with Rome, Bishop Scheffler was arrested and sent to Jilava prison, near the capital, Bucharest, from where he smuggled a message to local Catholics, urging them to “stay faithful unto martyrdom.”

The bishop died in an underground cell Dec. 6, 1952, after he had boiling water poured on him in the prison shower. The location of his unmarked grave in the prison cemetery was recorded by an Orthodox priest and fellow inmate. In 1965, his remains were secretly exhumed and reinterred in the Oradea cathedral crypt.

In an interview with CNS June 27, Archbishop Gyorgy-Miklos Jakubinyi of Alba Iulia said the beatification process, launched in 1990 after communist rule was overthrown in Romania’s “Winter Revolution,” had been helped by a composer who had shared the bishop’s cell and witnessed his violent death.

Bishop Scheffler is the second Romanian bishop to be beatified as a communist-era martyr; the first was Auxiliary Bishop Szilard Bogdanffy of Ordea Mare and Satu Mare, who died in 1953 and was beatified in October.

Archbishop Robu told CNS he hoped beatification processes would be completed soon for 15 other Romanian Catholic martyrs, including seven Eastern Catholic bishops.

More than 75 martyrs from communist-ruled Eastern Europe have been beatified by the Catholic Church, including 29 from Ukraine and 40 from Albania.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español