Bl. Pavel Peter Gojdic


Basilian Bishop of Presov
(1888-1960)
Memorial : 17 July

Pavel Peter was born on 17 July 1888 at Ruske Pekl'any near Presov (Prjasev) in Eastern Slovakia the third child of Stepan Gojdic and Anna Herberij. He grew up in the village of Cikel'ke where his father was parish priest. From his father he learned the love of neighbour that fuels pastoral care, and from his mother he acquired a spirit of prayer that remained with him until death. One must remember that in this century alone the flag over the city of Presov changed three times. As he left the gymnasium in 1907, he felt called to the priesthood. His two older brothers had already opted for the priesthood. He began his formation in Presov. As a capable student, he was sent to the Major Seminary in Budapest. He was ordained with his brother Cornelius on 27 August 1911 in Presov. He began his parish ministry by helping his father. Then he became prefect in the diocesan boarding school. In 1914 Bishop Nowak made him assistant protosyncellus (chancellor). In 1919 Dr Rusnak, the Apostolic Administrator, appointed him Moderator of the Chancery of the Eparchy. On 20 July 1922, he entered the Order of St Basil the Great, taking the name of Pavel (Paul). He satisfied a desire for a regular spiritual life and hoped to avoid being a candidate for the episcopacy. He was solemnly professed on 28 November 1926. On 14 September 1926, he was named Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Presov (Prjasev). In 1927 he was appointed titular Bishop of Harpasa and was consecrated on 25 March in the Roman Basilica of San Clemente, near the relics of St Cyril, St Ignatius and St Clement. On 29 March, Pius XI gave him a gold pectoral cross, saying: "This cross is only faintly symbolic of the heavy crosses God will send you...".

"God is love, let us love Him!" was the motto of the zealous pastor as he founded parishes, orphanages, schools, supported the teaching academy and seminary, besides launching new publications. It was only in 1940 that the Holy Father appointed him Bishop of Presov (Prjasev); until then he had been Apostolic Administrator, and for the year 1939 Apostolic Administrator of Mukacheve. During the period before the war he had to defend the Ruthenians against the onslaught of Slovak nationalism. During the war the bishop was busy helping refugees, prisoners and rescuing inmates of concentration camps. The "man with a heart of gold" deserved this name. Foreseeing the Communist take over, with the help of a new auxiliary, Bishop Hopko, he launched a campaign to reinforce the faith of his people by mobilizing every possible means: visits, missions, retreats, the press and the radio. He realized that the Communists would use the Orthodox Church to persecute Greek Catholics and try to make them break with Rome.

The Communists offiicially dissolved the Greek Catholic church in 1950, and Bishop Gojdic was arrested and imprisoned. He withstood the pressure to break with Rome. So began his heroic way of the Cross through the prisons of Communist Czechoslovakia. He never complained, despite torture, humiliation and isolation. Bishop Gojdic died of terminal cancer on 17 July 1960, in the prison of Leopoldov, on his 72nd birthday. He was buried in an anonymous grave, n. 681, in the cemetery. In 1968, his remains were moved to Presov (Prjasev) and since 1990 have been kept in a sarcophagus in the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist.


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