Dear Brothers, dear Sisters, dear Friends,
On November 11, 1952, Fathers Kamen Vitchev, Pavel Djidjov and Josaphat Chichkov were executed for espionage in Sofia, Bulgaria, following a mockery of a trial. Their lives were struck down by a machine of the State that claimed to stand for peace and liberty for the Bulgarian people. We have long been uncertain of the exact date of their martyrdom. The work done by historians under the charge of Fr. Bernard Holzer, postulator for their cause, has been able to determine the exact date of their execution.
Today, 70 years later, we continue to recall the offering they made of their lives. Accused of being “spies and schemers wanting to start an imperialistic war against Russia, Bulgaria, and popular democracies,” the three Assumptionist religious were assassinated out of hatred for their faith in Jesus Christ. Along with Passionist Bishop, Msgr. Eugene Bossilkov, they were victims of a despicable campaign that had as its goal the eradication of the Christian faith among Bulgarians. We owe them our gratitude. They are also our intercessors toward the Father for our “little Mission of the Orient.”
At a recent meeting of men and women religious in Bucharest, they reflected on their mission. It is good to recall the memory of our elders. Today, like yesterday, we have a need for faithful witness. We need men and women who are totally dedicated to the cause of the Gospel and ready to take risks to announce faith in Jesus Christ. The 34th General Chapter will study how to make this announcement more relevant in today’s world. Times have changed, but perhaps the hostility toward Christianity is more insidious than ever. Like a poison, this hostility spreads in our societies believing that they have become adult and free, without a connection to God. We cannot give up and be content with complaining. Our time is one of action, one of firm commitment, and one of determination, to bring the beauty of the Gospel to our world. We need men and women passionate for Jesus Christ, people of fire capable of bearing the announcement of the coming of the Kingdom. Kamen, Pavel, and Josaphat are models for us. They show us a way to follow, one of confidence and hope. I had the opportunity to know the last Bulgarian Assumptionists, and I believe they understood that the story doesn’t stop at the feet of a firing squad. Like Father Gerard Gorazd Kourtev, who in the halls of his prison which he was assigned to clean, whispered “Assumption” to communicate with the other prisoners in hopes of finding another Assumptionist brother among them. We can also repeat this beautiful word “Assumption” to manifest our faith in the future.
Dear brothers, dear sisters, dear friends, we are witnesses of the Kingdom. We must never falter in our faith; we must be ready to give our lives to proclaim that the Kingdom is near. With Kamen, Pavel and Josephat, let us be open doors to the eternal truths.
Father Benoît GRIÈRE a.a.