‘Witnesses of freedom and mercy’ – Pope Francis remembers bishops martyred under Communism

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2019 / 03:29 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday reflected upon his recent apostolic visit to Romania, where he beatified seven Greek-Catholic bishops martyred under Soviet occupation.

The pope said June 5 that the beatified bishops were “witnesses to the freedom and mercy that comes from the Gospel.”

“One of these new blesseds, Mgr. Iuliu Hossu, during his imprisonment wrote: ‘God sent us into this darkness of suffering to forgive and pray for the conversion of all,'” he said.

“Thinking of the terrible tortures to which they were subjected, these words are a testimony of mercy,” Pope Francis reflected during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis declared the beatification of Blessed Bishops Iuliu Hossu, Valeriu Traian Frentiu, Vasile Aftenie, Ioan Suciu, Tito Livio Chinezu, Ioan Balan, and Alexandru Rusu during a Greek-Catholic Divine Liturgy in the “Field of Freedom” in Blaj, Romania June 2.

Each of the seven bishops died after being held in prisons or labor camps in Romania between 1950 and 1970 under Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime, which harshly persecuted and imprisoned Romanian Catholics in both the Greek and Latin rites.

“The Catholic community, both Greek and Latin, is alive and active,” Pope Francis said. “We have shown that unity does not take away legitimate diversity.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in both rites during his three-day visit to Romania with Masses in the Latin rite for the feast of Mary’s visitation in the Bucharest Cathedral and at Transylvania’s Marian pilgrimage shrine of Șumuleu-Ciuc, in addition to the Divine Liturgy in Blaj.

The pope also met with Patriarch Daniel and the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Bucharest, a meeting which he said highlighted “the value and the need to walk together among Christians, on the level of faith and charity, and as citizens on the level of civil commitment.”

“The union among all Christians, although incomplete, is based on one Baptism and is sealed by the blood and suffering suffered together in the dark times of persecution, particularly in the last century under the atheistic regime,” Pope Francis said.

“May the Holy Spirit lead us to live ever more as children of God and brothers among us,” he said.

Pope Francis thanked God for his apostolic journey to Romania May 31 – June 2 and asked for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the visit to “bear abundant fruit for Romania and for the Church.”

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