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Romanian Bishop a Communist–era Martyr

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Romanian Bishop Janos Scheffler, center, who headed the Diocese of Oradea Mare and Satu Mare, is pictured in a 1942 photo. Bishop Scheffler is to be beatified as a martyr 3 July, almost six decades after dying from being doused in boiling water in a noto rious prison operated by his country’s former communist regime. (photo: CNS/courtesy Diocese of Satu Mare) 

30 Jun 2011 – by Jonathan Luxmoore

OXFORD, England (CNS) — A Catholic bishop from Romania will be beatified as a martyr almost six decades after dying from being doused in boiling water in a prison operated by his country’s former communist regime.

Bishop Janos Scheffler “was a pastor who risked everything to sustain the faith of Catholics and safeguard his church’s unity with Rome,” said Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest, president of the Romanian bishops’ conference.

“Having him officially recognized by the Catholic Church will provide a great impulse of joy and consolation, giving us a new model and new intercessor with God,” he said.

The archbishop spoke about preparations for the July 3 beatification of Bishop Scheffler (1887-1952) in the cathedral in Oradea, Romania. The bishop headed the Diocese of Oradea Mare and Satu Mare. The Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

In a June 28 interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Robu said the beatification was attracting considerable public interest in Romania, which has 12 Latin and Eastern Catholic dioceses serving about 5.6 percent of the population of 21.7 million, according to a 2002 census. The archbishop said the recognition of communist-era martyrs was a “point of ecumenical contact” with the country’s predominant Orthodox population.

“All Romanians are sensitive to such stories of witness and suffering, and the memory of Bishop Scheffler is still very much alive here, not only among Catholics,” Archbishop Robu said.

“Younger people may have trouble understanding the past epoch to which such figures belonged. But the idea of martyrdom surpasses historical periods — it speaks of the capacity for total devotion and risk, for the offering of life itself. These are values which can be readily appreciated by today’s young generation,” he said.

Named Bishop of Satu Mare in 1942 and of Ordea Mare in 1948, Bishop Scheffler was noted for his support for Catholic education and concern for social issues.

In 1950, as Romania’s new communist regime attempted to break the Catholic Church’s links with Rome, Bishop Scheffler was arrested and sent to Jilava prison, near the capital, Bucharest, from where he smuggled a message to local Catholics, urging them to “stay faithful unto martyrdom.”





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