Ukrainian priest martyred under the Soviet regime to be beatified
By Salvatore Cernuzio
A few hours after celebrating a clandestine Divine Liturgy, Father Petro Paolo Oros died when a pistol shot entered his chin, crossed his neck and exited his shoulder.
On 28 August 1953, the Soviet communists put an end to the life of robust faith and dedication to the weakest of this priest from the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo, Ukraine.
He died in Siltse. The Pope recognised his martyrdom in Friday’s audience with the Cardinal Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Marcello Semeraro.
Oros will now be beatified. Together with his martyrdom, the heroic virtues of five servants of God were recognised, who thus become venerable.
Origins and vocation
Oros was born on 14 July 1917 in the Hungarian village of Biri, into a deeply Christian family. His father was a Greek Catholic priest and disappeared when Petro was 2 years old. At 9, he lost his mother. In 1937, he entered the seminary in Uzghorod, Transcarpathia, on the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.
On 18 June 1942, he was ordained a celibate priest of the Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo, Ukraine, and began his pastoral service in a number of villages as vice-parish priest, immediately making himself known for his zeal and love for the poor.
In 1943, due to the war, he attended a course for military chaplains in Barca, near Košice, the capital of the region of the same name in Slovakia. He returned to his parish, which, in 1944, ended up, like the entire territory of Transcarpathia, under occupation by Soviet troops of the Red Army and united to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, then to the USSR.
The years of persecution
With the forced annexation, the persecution of the Greek Catholic Church began. In 1946, Oros was transferred to Bilky, in the Irshava district, as a parish priest.
Even then, he received pressure to transfer to the Russian Orthodox Church. Pressures that intensified in 1948. He resisted, remaining faithful to the Pope.
In 1949, pastoral activities were then forbidden and all Greek Catholic churches were closed. The Eparchy Mukachevo was also suppressed.
Father Oros lived, with awareness and courage, under the cloud of a person under suspicion, controlled by the secret services and exposed to arbitrary arrests and injustice. When, in 1949, the Greek Catholic Church was outlawed and personalities held in esteem in society systematically eliminated, the servant of God continued to clandestinely carry out his ministry. An arrest warrant against him was issued in 1953. He tried to escape, but on 28 August a policeman stopped him at the railway station in the village of Siltse and killed him. Immediately the murder was considered a martyrdom, although the priest's body remained hidden until the break-up of the Soviet Union. His memory remained impressed on the faithful and endures to this day, together with the fama signorum, the conviction of the efficacy of his intercession with God.
"The Lamp of the Most Holy"
In addition to the martyrdom of Petro Oros, the Pope authorised the promulgation of Decrees recognising the heroic virtues of five new Venerables.
One of these is Jesús Antonio Gómez Gómez, a Colombian priest who was a confessor, rector of colleges and professor of dogmatic theology. He was particularly dedicated to the confessions and spiritual direction of priests, seminarians, religious, nuns and also lay people. People called him 'the lamp of the Blessed Sacrament' for the many hours he spent in Adoration, even when ill.
The founder of "Franciscan Smile
The Decrees also include one concerning the Capuchin, Umile da Genova, born Giovanni Giuseppe Bonzi, founder in the immediate post-war period of Sorriso Francescano, a place of assistance for poor, orphaned and abandoned children. For them, the priest went begging daily for the necessary money. And thanks to what he collected, he was also able to found the Congregation of the Little Handmaids of the Child Jesus Sisters.
Although the suffering and trauma experienced during the bombing of Genoa left him with emotional discomfort that did not always facilitate interpersonal relationships, he continued to be loved and esteemed by his co-workers. The archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, supported him and always had confidence in him.
The Spanish priest who helped priests
The Pope acknowledged the heroic virtues of Giovanni Sánchez Hernández, a Spanish priest of the Sodality of the Diocesan Worker Priests of the Heart of Jesus, founder of the Institute of the Secular Servants of Jesus Christ the Priest, established with the aim of helping priests in their ministry.
Evangelisation by radio
Vittorio Coelho de Almeida, was a Brazilian Redemptorist who provided pastoral service at the Marian shrine of Aparecida, where he had been transferred while convalescing from tuberculosis. The period of his illness was an opportunity for him to become familiar with the medium of radio.
In fact, he joined the team of Radio Aparecida from the start of broadcasting in 1951, becoming deputy director in 1958 and general manager in '65. Appreciated for his simplicity in communicating, he soon became famous and many people turned to him for advice and help. In 1969, Radio Aparecida's broadcasts were suspended by order of the military regime, which deemed his 1 January speech commenting on the 'Declaration of Human Rights' subversive.
The Indian mystic nun
The list of new Venerables also includes the Indian Ursuline nun Maria Celina Kannanaikal, who was persecuted within her congregation during the novitiate because of mystical experiences that created doubts in the superiors and upset the novices.
Her holiness was recognised, but many suggested that she not be admited her to profession. After a six-month extension of the novitiate - beyond the canonical two years - she was admitted to her first religious profession.
She taught in primary schools, but soon became seriously ill with frequent febrile episodes, headaches and vomiting with traces of blood. No one was able to make a definite diagnosis. She died in 1957 at the age of 26, just thirty-five days after her religious profession.