“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. … No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:18.20)
Bishop Kallistos Ware [+2022] said that today is truly the age of martyrs. More people are giving witness to Christ than ever before.
Today, the Byzantine Catholic Church remembers Blessed Theodore Romzha, who was killed by the Communists as he performed his pastoral duties. In the epistle read today, St. Paul reflects on what Christians have always had to do to follow Christ, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)” This, St. Paul, comes from the great mystery of the Church: Christ in us, our hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) We do not give up our lives for our own purposes, but because we know that our life is in Christ. We die not only for some ideal, but in witness to a person -the Jesus Christ, our Lord, “light from light, true God from true God.” This is why in history Christians have been persecuted by all kinds of organizations and ideologies and economic systems which perceive Jesus, the Giver of Life, as a threat.
Sadly, even in our history, Christians have persecuted other Christians. However, today we proclaim the glory of all those who proclaim Jesus as Lord. Indeed, the feast is ecumenical, celebrating the Byzantine Catholic bishop who died for Christ in 1947, Theodore Romzha, and the Russian Orthodox priest, John Kochurev, who had served as a pastor in Chicago, but was the first Orthodox priest to be martyred by the Communists in Russia in 1917. Both Catholic and Orthodox therefore bear united witness to the one Lord Jesus Christ in the face of his enemies.
Meditation by Archpriest David Petras
Today we honor the memory of Blessed Theodore Romzha, a martyr for Christian faith.
Though the godless poured poison into your veins, your heart still beats with love for Christ, O bishop Theodore, martyred father, who now raise your prayers before the Throne of God.
Today, the Church commemorates, “The holy priest-martyr Theodore Romzha. Born in Veliky Bychkiv in Carpatho-Russia in 1911, he came from a poor family and exhibited a vocation to the priesthood. Sent to Rome for studies, he was ordained in 1937 and sent to the country parish of Berzovo. In 1939, he was called to the seminary at Uzhhorod and taught there until 1944. In 1944, despite his youth, he was ordained bishop for the Mukachevo Eparchy. During the Soviet Army’s occupation of Carpatho-Russia, he was tireless in his care for his flock and in his defense of the rights of the Byzantine Catholic Church.
On October 27, 1947, he was severely wounded in a staged accident. He was taken to the hospital in Mukachevo, where he was subsequently poisoned, and died (1947).”
Romzha died just after midnight (Moscow time) on November 1st; a request made of or Congregation for Oriental Churches the feast day was changed to October 31.
Bishop Romzha was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001.
Icon and text by the monks of Mt Tabor.
Blessed Theodore Romzha was bishop of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo from 1944 to 1947.
Assassinated by NKVD on Oct 31, 1947 in Uzhhorod, Ukraine.
He was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001.
More on Blessed Theodore may be read here.
In the Byzantine Catholic Church keeps the feast of Blessed Theodore Romzha is celebrated today. He was a martyred bishop of Mukachevo in Transcarpathia who was killed by the Soviets in hatred for the faith.
“I love you, O Lord, my strength; You are my stronghold and my refuge!” (Psalm 18: 2-3)
These were the words which Bishop Theodore G. Romzha, the Apostolic Administrator of the Mukachevo Eparchy (1944-1947), chose as the motto for his episcopal ministry. At the age of 33, he faced the one of the most brutal and bloody persecutions of a Christian community in modern times, ultimately making the ultimate sacrifice for his flock and his faith.
Bishop Romzha was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 27, 2001. His relics are enshrined in Holy Cross Cathedral in Uzhorod, Transcarpathia.
His feast was originally celebrated on November 1, and is thus listed in the Roman Martyrology at #19 on that day. During the days of the Soviet control of Ukraine, there was but one “time zone” in the U.S.S.R. The bishops of Ukraine petitioned Rome that the feast date be changed to Oct. 31, due to the fact that it was on that date that the martyr was actually murdered.
Here’s a hymn for Blessed Theodore