From the Editor: “Blood is enough”

The Vatican document We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, which recalls the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Nazi era, quotes Pope John Paul II’s striking statement at right.

In Spring, 1998 we remembered a martyr of this century, Passionist Bishop Eugene Bossilkov. Bishop Bossilkov was executed in 1952 during widespread Stalinist persecutions of churches in Eastern Europe. The pope beatified this brave and holy man on during a special Mass on March 16, 1998 in St Peter’s Basilica .

Bishop Bossilkov was, as the pope said, “one of many victims sacrificed by atheistic Communism in Bulgaria and elsewhere, as it attempted to annihilate the church.”

Indeed, for the persecutors of Bishop Bossilkov, destroying his body was not enough. They tried to annihilate the very memory of his life.

After the Bishop’s execution, his body was tossed into an unmarked grave; its location remains unknown. His death went unreported and for years officials refused officially to acknowledge it. No memorial was permitted. And yet God did not let die the memory of Bishop Bossilkov’s outstanding life. With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, stories like his now can be told.

Bishop Bossilkov’s niece, as you will read, pled with a jailer for some proof of her uncle’s death. The jailer handed over convincing evidence: the bishop’s bloodstained shirt. This precious relic was received by the pope at the Mass of Beatification. The next day, the shirt was placed near the altar in the Church of Saints John and Paul during a celebration in his honor.

As I was standing that day before the relic, a group of young Italian students came to visit the church. One asked me about the shirt. In halting Italian, I told him the bishop’s story and explained that all we have left is this bloodstained shirt.

“Well,” he said, “blood is enough.”

Yes, blood is enough. Martyrs like Eugene Bossilkov play a powerful role in the Church by their witness to God’s grace. Their memory blesses our future.

Father Victor Hoagland, C.P.

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