Blessed Bishop Vasil Hopko Greek-Catholic martyr
Hrabske (Bardejov), April 21, 1904 – Prešov (Slovakia), July 23, 1976
Born of poor family, he decided to enter the seminary in 1923. He was ordained a priest by the Greek-Catholic Bishop of Presov on February 3, 1929. He graduated in theology in 1940 he was ordained as a bishop on May 11, 1947. Between 1950 and 1964, he was jailed by the Communist regime, undergoing torture. After his release, despite the precarious state of his health, Hopko actively contributed to the renewal of the Greek-Catholic Church. He died on July 23, 1976.
Roman Martyrology: A Prešov in Slovakia, Blessed Basil Hopko, auxiliary bishop and martyr, who, under a regime hostile to the faith of Christ and the Church, was arrested for having carried out his ministry in the service of the faithful of the Byzantine Rite; subjected to torture.
On Sunday September 14, 2003, during a solemn celebration in Bratislava, Slovakia, Pope John Paul II beatified the Greek-Catholic Bishop Vasil Hopko, martyr of the communist regime during the period of the’ Church of silence ‘, and the pope urged participants: “Slovak people, do not ever be ashamed of the Gospel! Custodiscilo in your heart as the most precious treasure from which to draw light and strength, in the pilgrimage of everyday life.”
With those same feelings, he lived his priestly vocation and worked his episcopal ministry; he endured the suffering imposed on him and died with the holy sacrifice of life, Vasil ‘(Basil) Hopko, who was born April 21, 1904 in the province to Hrabske Bardejov, Slovakia, the second of three sons of Basil Hopko and Anna Petrenko, the faithful of the Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite. A young aspirant to the priesthood, he entered the eparchial seminary in Presov, successfully undertaking the necessary studies, he continued with the theological, with a period in Rome to which he sas sent by his bishop and the rest of theology at the Academy of Greek-Catholic Presov. After his second year of theology, Vasil was called to arms during the First World War (1915-1918) working as an assistant chaplain, he military leave after his studies ended in 1928 and finally, on February 3, 1929 in Presov, he was ordained a priest by the Servant of God, Bishop Paul Gojdich of Basiliano, apostolic administrator of Presov.
Among his first tasks was to be the administrator in the parish of Pakostov, then was appointed by the bishop to build a new parish in Prague; the Slovak state since 1918, together with the Czechs, had become Czechoslovakia, the new parish of St. Clement became a spiritual center for the faithful Ruthenians of Bohemia (the Ruthenians, called by the Roman Curia, the faithful of the Byzantine-Slavic rite). For five years, from 1936 to 1941, Vasil Hopko was appointed spiritual director of the eparchial seminary in Presov (eparchies are the equivalent of the greek rite, the Catholic bishops of the diocese), in 1940 he graduated as Doctor of Theology in the University Komensky Bratislava.
On September1, 1941 he became secretary to the bishop, and kept that position until 1943, then had the prestigious post of professor in pastoral theology and moral theology at the Faculty of Theology in Presov, until May 11, 1947; for his indisputable merits, he was consecrated bishop of Midili and Auxiliary Bishop of Presov.
Under the communist regime, a proponent of the infamous “Iron Curtain” that divided the Western countries and satellites of the Soviet Union, in Czechoslovakia following the sad events of the Sobor (Council) in Presov, April 28, 1950, the state outlawed the Greek-Catholic Church and eliminated it.
In Presov Gojdich the bishop was imprisoned and his Auxiliary Bishop, Hopko put under house arrest and guarded by police after he was first interned in the monastery at Bác Samorin and then in the Franciscan monsatery of Hlohovec. After several attempts by the communists to do the Orthodox Church entered, at the end Mgr. Vasil Hopko was put in prison on October 18, 1950, undergoing interrogation for a year and very cruel treatment until October 24, 1951, when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Supreme Court of Slovakia in Bratislava, for “subversive activities and for having maintained contacts with a foreign state “(the Vatican). He also had to pay fines of 20,000 Czechoslovak crowns, losing the civil rights of a citizen for 10 years and suffered the confiscation of all assets.
Thus began his fidelity to the Catholic Church, a cross up the Bishop Hopko to suffer humiliation in jail and prisons in Bratislava, Ilava, Leopoldov, Prague, and mirov Valdice. After 13 years and six months, May 12, 1964, he was released under a condition for good health and very spoiled, because of physical and moral sufferings which he underwent, insufficient food, the cold and lack of adequate health care.
Released from prison, until the beginning of 1968, he lived in a nursing home in Osek in northern Bohemia, and was also constantly monitored by the secret police state. With the so-called “Prague Spring” introduced by Alexander Dubcek in 1968, the Greek Catholic Church, was given permission to restore its facilities and then also Mgr. Hopko, even if not fully rehabilitated, began to rearrange the Diocese of Presov, then working with the new apostolic administrator, appointed by Pope Paul VI.
On July 23, 1976 in Presov, he died as a result of detention suffered, in fact, in the course of toxicological then performed during the exhumation of the body, showed the presence of arsenic in the bones, which a second analysis showed had been administered in small doses and for a long time.
Following the request of the Metropolitan of Pittsburg in the United States of Byzantine rite, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, authorized in 1986, responsibility for investigating the cause of beatification for the martyr Bishop Hopko, from Presov to Pittsburg.
But with the subsequent political reversals, culminating with the collapse of communist regimes and the ‘Iron Curtain’, the case returned to the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Presov, its natural place, being introduced in 1994.
His persecutors were motivated by hatred for the Catholic faith and forgive him, he offered himself for loyalty to Christ and the Church, by accepting all the sufferings imposed therefore shall be deemed for all purposes a martyr for the faith.
Author: Antonio Borrelli
Source: Santi e Beati