Romanian Cardinal Alexandru Todea Dies

Was a Living Martyr of Communism

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2002 ( Cardinal Alexandru Todea, a symbol of the Catholic Church´s martyrdom in Romania during the Communist regime, died in his homeland Wednesday afternoon. He was 89.

The calvary of the metropolitan archbishop emeritus of Fagaras and Alba Iulia began in the period 1946-48, when the regime accused him of opposing atheism.

He was arrested and released on five occasions. On Oct. 14, 1948, Securitate agents arrested him in his residence in Reghin. As he left with his hands raised, he gripped a rosary.

«Enough of these silly religious practices. Now we have arrested you and you will never be free again,» a policeman shouted at him.

A serene Todea replied: «It does not depend on you. If the Lord wishes, I will regain my liberty within 14,000 years.»

He briefly regained his freedom, only to be sentenced to life imprisonment in 1951, following his secret consecration as bishop the previous year.

Thirteen years later he was granted amnesty and set about to rebuild the Church in Romania.

John Paul II made him a cardinal in 1991, two years after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

The cardinal died in Targu Mures University Hospital, where he was hospitalized eight weeks ago. The Pope sent a telegram from Azerbaijan to the deceased´s successor, Archbishop Lucian Muresan.

In the message, written in Latin, the Holy Father underlined the extraordinary work of evangelization carried out by Cardinal Todea, in addition to the «suffering he endured because of the faith, the work of a tyrannical and cruel regime.»

In the same chapel where 49 years earlier he had been ordained clandestinely, the ailing Cardinal Todea embraced John Paul II when the latter visited Romania in May 1999. The Pontiff bent down before the invalid´s wheelchair, moving the cardinal to tears.

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