Durcovici, martyr for the people

The bishop of Iasi, martyred in a regime prison in 1951

A “zealous priest, apostle of Eucharistic Adoration, a heroic witness of communion with Peter’s see”, said Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter referring to the bishop of Iasi Msgr. Anton Durcovici, declared Blessed on May 17, in the city of Iasi. The celebration, officiated by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, was attended by over 23 thousand faithful. He is the fourth martyr died under the persecution of the Church in Romania, raised to the altars after bishops Bogdanffy (2010) and Scheffler (2011), and Msgr. Ghika (2013). A caring bishop. Declared martyr for the faith by Pope Francis past October 31, Msgr. Anton Durcovici died at 63 of hunger and thirst, which he suffered for a long period in a cell in the extermination prison of Sighet, sentenced to death without trial for his faith in Christ and in the Church. He was born in Austria on May 17 1888. He was five when his father died, and he moved with his family to Romania, where he stayed until his death. After studies in Bucharest and Rome, he was ordained priest on September 24 1910 in the St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. Once returned to Bucharest, he dedicated himself to a fruitful apostolate with the formation of seminarians and lay Christians. In October 1947 he was appointed bishop of the diocese of Iasi by Pius XII, in 1949 he became apostolic administrator of the archdiocese of Bucarest, at a very difficult time for the Church in Romania. In these capacities, in June 1949 he was arrested in the streets, while he was going to impart the sacrament of Confirmation in a parish near the capital. Durcovici, who spent his entire life in clenching the thirst and the hunger of God of the faithful entrusted to his pastoral care, after two and a half years in prison, weakened by torture and cold, died of hunger and thirst on December 10 1951. Another star in the firmament. In the homily delivered during the beatification ceremony, Cardinal Angelo Amato underlined the “meek, peaceful charitable, merciful temperament” of the martyr bishop, who “especially loved the poor” and who “spoke and lived in persona Christi”. He was a “zealous shepherd, strong and brave” at a time of ordeal. “Lord Jesus Christ – said Msgr. Durcovici on April 14 1948, upon his instalment in the diocese of Iasi – I choose you today as invincible shield of the flock that was given to my care. Guard over us, O Lord; guide us towards your happiness, that the word of God may be fulfilled: ‘Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord (Psalm 143,15)”. “Disappeared from man’s sight, our heroic bishop entered the eternal light of the assembly of angels and saints, leaving an indelible memory in the soul of the Catholic Church of Romania, that remembers him as a good, innocent shepherd”, the cardinal added. Now, with his beatification, “another star shines in the firmament of the martyrs of Christ”. A message for Romanian faithful. Bishop Durcovici – wrote the bishop of Iasi Msgr. Petru Gherghel in a pastoral letter, was “in love with the One who chose to serve and bear witness of his entire being” and passed on forever to all of us “a veritable lesson of courage, fortitude and dedication to the glory of God, for the good and the happiness of mankind”. The life and death of Msgr. Anton Durcovici “is a strong message to the Church and to the people entrusted to his care”, the bishop added. In the thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of the martyr bishop, archbishop Ioan Robu, president of the Romanian Bishops’ Conference, highlighted the importance of the pastoral testament which Durcovici left to the Romanian Church: “At the time the Communist tempest ruled. Now we witness other tempests. And we honor the memory and the martyrdom of Blessed Anton Durcovici, strengthening our Catholic identity. We should be jealous of our identity, because as Christian Catholics we are a chosen people, member of the Church wanted by Christ. And we have to treasure our Catholic identity, of unity and communion with the Holy Father and the entire Church, following the example of the bishop martyr Anton Durcovici”.

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