VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is highlighting the example of the newly beatified Blessed Szilard Bogdanffy, who after his episcopal consecration was arrested by the communist regime and died in prison.
The Pope dedicated some words on Sunday, after praying the midday Angelus, to recall the example of the prelate who was beatified Oct. 30 in the cathedral of Oradea in Romania.
The Pontiff recalled: “In 1949 when he was 38 he was secretly consecrated a bishop and then arrested by the communist regime of his country, Romania, charged with conspiracy. After four years of suffering and humiliation, he died in prison.”
The Holy Father urged: “Let us thank God for this heroic pastor of the Church who followed the Lamb to the very end!
“May his witness bring comfort to those who even today are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.”
Szilard Bogdanffy was born on Feb. 21, 1911, in the town of Feketeto/Crna Bara, in what was at that time the Hungarian Diocese of Csanad, at present the Diocese of Zrejanin in Serbia. His parents were educators, and he studied at the faculty of philosophy and theology of the Peter Pazmany University of Budapest.
On June 29, 1934, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Stephan Fiedler in a new parish called St. Therese of Lisieux in Oradea. Father Bogdanffy dedicated himself to teaching in Satu Mare, then in the seminary of Oradea and in several schools.
During the years of the communist dictatorship, he was clandestinely consecrated bishop on February 14, 1949 by Archbishop Gerald Patrick O’Hara, apostolic nuncio in Romania, in the chapel of the nunciature in Bucharest.
A few months later, on April 5, 1949, Bishop Bogdanffy was arrested and accused of high treason and espionage and, after a farcical trial, sentenced to 12 years of forced labor in a lead mine. He was then taken to an extermination camp in Mar Nero.
The prelate was later transferred to the prison of Nagyenyed, where he fell ill with pneumonia. Due to the hardships and torture he underwent, Bishop Bogdanffy died on Oct. 3, 1953.
Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and primate of Hungary, presided over the beatification. He noted that the prelate’s life holds a precious teaching in particular “in this tired age of ours and, after the intoxication of a worldly liberty, which is deep down disgusted and disappointed.”
The cardinal said, “If at first the great temptation was due to the harshness of the persecution, today rather the almost imperceptible complexity of life, the distractions and a certain mysterious interior tiredness are the obstacles that impede finishing with the rush of love the course toward eternal happiness of which St. Paul speaks.”
“It is as though a certain melancholy oppresses our hearts,” he said. “And yet, as today the testimony of martyrs resounds and shines again from the silence and the darkness of fear, so it is with us also that the force of faith can give us hope and a future.”
At the end of the celebration, Cardinal-designate Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said that “whoever arrested the Servant of God was moved not by objective motives, but out of hatred of the faithful; they wanted to constrict him with every means to abjure his Catholic faith.”
The prelate continued: “People said that in the camp of forced labor of Capul Midia there was only one door, that of entrance. It was a real hell. Scarce food, constant mistreatment, lack of sleep (one could not sleep lying down, but only leaning on the sides of the bed), worn-out by questioning (they often lasted uninterruptedly for 82 hours), cold, filth. Everything was programmed with the intention of annihilating the detained psychologically and physically.”
Nonetheless, said Cardinal-designate Amato, “the witnesses affirm that, despite the inhuman situation of prison, Bishop Bogdanffy was never lacking in his very generous acts of charity to the other prisoners.”
He concluded, “The sacrifice of Bishop Bogdanffy is the concrete testimony of the vitality of the Romanian Catholic Church, of its faithfulness to the unity of the Church and of its love for the Holy Father.”