Blessed Basil Hopko

The Byzantine Church recalls the memory of a 20th century martyr for the faith, Basil Hopko (April 24, 1904—July 23, 1976) was a priest and bishop of the Slovak Greek Catholic Church. Hopko was beatified by Pope John Paul II for his martyrdom under Communist occupation.

Having contemporary models of holiness is important to us because it reminds us that it is possible to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A brief biography can be read here.

Here is a hymn for our holy father and confessor Basil (Hopko), Bishop of Medila composed by James Michael Thompson.

The Church of God with angel ranks
Combines to sing the praise
Of Basil, shepherd of the flock
Who served Christ all his days!
With no regard for life or wealth
He preached the Word most true;
As he so bravely lived and died,
May we thus also do!

A scholar from his early youth,
He heard Your priestly call,
And from his ordination day,
He gave to You his all.
By pastoring and teaching, too,
His patient, faithful life
Became a shining model for
His Church in times of strife.

When vicious persecution came,
Upon him, hands were laid,
And he was made a bishop then,
A leader firm and staid.
Though seized, imprisoned, sick and worn,
He never turned away,
And through his good example, helped
All those who thought to stray.

O Father, lover of us all,
O Christ, our Master true,
O Spirit, holy Paraclete:
All praise we sing to You!
O Triune God, O One-in-Three,
We give you thanks today:
As blessed Basil followed You,
Help us to walk his way!

(Tune: Pod tvoj pokrov/We Hasten to Your Patronage)
(c) 2005, J. Michael Thompson

Blessed Basil Hopko, martyr

Basil or Vasiľ Hopko (April 24, 1904—July 23, 1976) was a priest and bishop of the Slovak Greek Catholic Church. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II for his martyrdom under Communist occupation.

Hopko was born in the Rusyn village of Hrabské, Austria-Hungary in county Šariš, presently in eastern Slovakia. His parents, Basil and Anna née Petrenko, were landless peasants. While Hopko was still an infant, his father was struck by lightning and died. His mother left him in care of her father, while she emigrated to the United States in search of work. When Hopko was 7 he was sent to live with his uncle Demeter Petrenko, a Greek Catholic priest.

He attended the Evangelical gymnasium in Prešov, then Czechoslovakia, graduating with honors in 1923. Hopko studied at the Eparchial Seminary in Prešov. He had dreams of joining his mother in America, and of pursuing his priestly vocation there, but the cost of recurring health problems left him unable to afford to travel. He later wrote that when he finally decided to stay and to serve in his homeland, he was suddenly cured, and realized he had been given a sign about his calling. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest on 3 February 1929.

He served as a parish priest (1929–1936) at the Greek Catholic parish in Prague, the Czechoslovak capital, where he was known for his focus on the poor, the unemployed, and students. His mother returned from the US after 22 years and rejoined her son in Prague, becoming his housekeeper at the parish rectory.

In 1936 he returned to teach in Prešov’s Eparchial Seminary, and was awarded the title of monsignor. He had already begun graduate studies at Charles University while in Prague, and he completed his Doctor of Theology in 1940 at Comenius University in Bratislava. In Prešov he headed the Eparchy’s publishing division, where he edited a monthly periodical.

After World War II, a growing Soviet Bolshevik influence caused Bishop Pavol Peter Gojdič of Prešov to ask the Vatican for an Auxiliary Bishop to help defend the Greek Catholic Church. Hopko was appointed to the post on 11 May 1947. The Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia wreaked havoc on the Greek Catholic Church. In 1950 it was officially abolished, and its assets were turned over to the Russian Orthodox Church. Gojdič was arrested and was imprisoned for life. Hopko was arrested on 28 April 1950 and kept on starvation rations and tortured for weeks. Eventually he was tried and sentenced to 15 years for the “subversive activity” of staying loyal to Rome. He was repeatedly transferred from prison to prison. His health, physical and emotional, failed, and in 1964 he was transferred to an old age home. He never recovered his health.