Blessed Pavol Gojdic
July 17, 1888, Ruské Peklany near Prešov-July 17, 1960, Leopoldov
Son of the Greek-Catholic priest Štefan Gojdic and Anna Gerberyová. Attended elementary school at Cigelka, Bardejov and Prešov, finishing in 1907. Studied theology at Prešov and then Budapest where he consecrated himself and his work to the Sacred Heart. Finishing his studies on 27 August 1911, he was ordained soon after. Worked briefly as assistant parish priest with his father. Prefect of the eparchial seminary, and taught religion in a higher secondary school. Supervised protocol and the archives in the diocesan curia. Assistant parish priest in Sabinov. Director of the episcopal office in 1919.
In a surprise move, he joined the Order of Saint Basil the Great at Cernecia Hora on 20 July 1922, making his vows on 27 January 1923, and taking the name Pavol. Apostolic administrator of Prešov on 14 September 1926; during his installation he said, “With the help of God I want to be a father to orphans, a support for the poor and consoler to the afflicted.” His first official act was a pastoral letter on the 1100th anniversary of the birth of Saint Cyril, apostle to his Pavol’s people.
Bishop on 7 March 1927; his episcopal motto: God is love, let us love Him! Promoted the spiritual life of the clergy and laity. Founded new parishes, and insured proper and valid liturgical celebrations. Built orphanages, founded the Greek-Catholic school in Prešov in 1936, and supported the publications Messenger of the Gospel and Thy Kingdom Come. Great devotion to the Real Presence and the Sacred Heart.
Apostolic administrator at Mukacevo in Slovakia on 13 April 1939. Due to difficulties between Pavol and the local government, he tendered his resignation from the position. The Pope refused to accept it, and instead ordained him residential bishop of Prešov on 8 August 1940. On 15 January 1946 he was confirmed in his jurisdiction over the Greek-Catholics in the whole of Czecho-Slovakia.
The Church in the region received a serious blow with the seizure of power by the Communists in 1948, and their immediate fight against the Greek-Catholic Church. Bishop Gojdic refused to submit the Greek-Catholics to Russian orthodoxy, or dismantle the Church in accord with Communist ideology. The government isolated him from the clergy and the faithful, and simultaneously tried to bribe him with offers of support and power if he would break from Rome. “I will not deny my faith,” he said. “Do not even come to me.”
On 28 April 1950, the Communists outlawed the Greek-Catholic Church. Bishop Pavol was imprisoned, and in a show-trial in January 1951, convicted of treason. Sentenced to life without parole and stripped of civil rights, he was moved from prison to prison, constantly abused, praying in silence, and celebrating the liturgy in secret. In the amnesty of 1953, his sentence was commuted to 25 years in prison, which in practical terms was a life sentence. At one point he was advised that he could straight from prison to Prešov, on condition that he become patriarch of the Orthodox church in Czecho-Slovakia; bishop Pavol explained that this would be a sin against God, a betrayal of the Holy Father, of his conscience and of the persecuted faithful. His sentence continued, the abuse continued, and his health finally broke; he spent his remaining months in the prison hospital, and died there.
Bishop Pavol was legally rehabilitated on 27 September 1990, and has posthumously received the Order of T. G. Masaryk – II class, and with the Cross of Pribina – 1st class, one of the great honours of his native land.
- He died on 17 July 1960 in the prison hospital at Leopoldov of illness and maltreatment received in prison; he was buried in the prison cemetery with a marker reading only “681”; his relics were translated to Prešov on 29 October 1968; relics relocated to the chapel of the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Prešov on 15 May 1990
Beatified: 4 November 2001 by Pope John Paul II.