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November 2013

Blessed Vladimir Ghika

~ Priest and Martyr ~

"Nothing is more precious than being jailed for Jesus Christ."

LOUISE GHERASIM

Recently, there has been much written about the beatification of Monsignor Ghika, and his life story. This Romanian priest who shared the same cell in the Jilava prison as my beloved husband, Dr. Teodor Gherasim, was a most remarkable man.

In his autobiography, Astride 2 Worlds, my husband, who passed away on February 26, 2013, spoke of his friendship with Mgr Ghika during those horrendous days and nights, in one of the worst of Romania’s cruel Communist prisons: “Here was a man who gave himself completely to God’s service…The great love of his life was to do good for the suffering humanity.”

Both the Monsignor and my husband were originally from the same part of Romania, Bucovina. So a strong bond of friendship grew between them. They shared hours of prayer, meditation, and even food. The Monsignor insisted that Teodor, who was in his early twenties, should partake of his meagre portion of bread:

“You are young; you have more chances [of] surviving the Communist hell [to] tell the world about our ordeals. I know I’m going to die here, so my food is not as necessary for sustenance,” he would often tell Teodor.

In 1954, following one of the many episodes of bestial torture he suffered during two years of torment, the 80-year-old priest died in his sleep, as he lay on the cold damp ground near my beloved husband.

Our son Gabriel, writing about this beautiful friendship on the internet shortly after the beatification ceremony on 31 August 2013, was privileged to receive an answer from the great, great niece of Mgr Ghika. She wrote:

“I heard a lot in the family about the story of your father, how he had been supported during detention. I can put a name now on this person who made a lot for Mgr Ghika’s memory.” [sic]

Here she was referring to the many letters sent to the Vatican and other Church dignitaries by my husband, Teodor, commending the saintly man.

Who was the Priest-Martyr, Vladimir Ghika?

From the National Catholic Register, we learn that this Romanian priest descended from French and Romanian nobility. He was born on Christmas Day 1873 in Constantinople, where his father was the Romanian ambassador to the Ottoman Court. He was baptized into the Orthodox faith of his parents.

His education included medicine, art, botany, and political science in the schools of France. Later, he was drawn to theology and to Rome, where he converted to Catholicism at the age of 29.

He spoke 22 languages and on the advice of his friend Pope Pius X, he became a lay missionary.

Returning to his country, Romania, he created a foundation for Catholic charity works. He established the first free medical clinic in Bucharest and the country’s first ambulance service.

During WWI, he travelled to many dangerous places attending the wounded and refugees, as well as victims of cholera.

He was 49 years old when he was ordained in Paris in 1923. He then spent the next seven years ministering to the poor in the most dangerous part of that city, Villejuif.

In 1939, at the outbreak of WWII, he returned to Romania as the first priest with Papal approval to celebrate both the Latin Catholic Mass and the Byzantine-rite Liturgy, used by the Byzantine Catholic Church.

As WWII ended, the Russians occupied Romania. His family urged him to leave the country under Soviet occupation, but his response was: “If God wants me here, then here I remain.”

In 1952, the KGB from Romania, called Securitatea, arrested him and every other Catholic bishop and priest in Romania, particularly of the Byzantine-Catholic denomination, now
deemed “illegal.”

In the notorious prison known as Jilava, he was brutally beaten, starved and attacked by police dogs. Over 80 times he was tortured with electric shocks and strangulation, as the interrogators were trying unsuccessfully to force him to invent various “anti-proletarian” charges against innocent individuals, priests and parishioners. Eventually, he lost his eyesight and hearing as a result of this brutality. 

Nearing death, the holy priest was heard to say, “Nothing is more precious than being jailed for Jesus Christ.”

In closing this brief account of the life and death of Blessed Ghika, I would like to recognize Victor Gaetan of the Catholic Register, who has provided us with valuable information.

The author, a native of Ireland, has written 12 books for all ages, on Ireland and Romania. Works by the late Dr. Teodor Gherasim include: Astride 2 Worlds, and Ancient Dictators, Modern Tyrants. For further information and purchase details please visit: www.bestbitesbuys.com/ldpress.html

 

 

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