BISHOP CONDEMNED TO FIRING SQUAD
Sentences in Sofia imperil the entire Church in Bulgaria
AFEW years before the war a 35-year-old Bulgarian priest, Fr. Eugene Bossilkov, came to London to spend a holiday with his brother-Passionists at St. Joseph's Retreat Highgate. Ten years later be became a Bishop.
Today this valiant confessor of the Faith, sentenced to death with three Assumptionist priests, as a traitor, is in a Sofia prison awaiting execution by a firing squad.
Mgr. Bossilkov, Bishop of Nicopolis, is the first Bishop to be sentenced to death since the persecutions began after the war in Soviet Russia's satellite countries.
His death—if the Red Government dares to carry out the sentence—might well mark a final stage in the execution of the Church in Bulgaria.
Only two other Bishops, Mgr. Kurtev and Mgr. Romanov, are already in prison.
Moreover, all foreign priests—a large proportion of the total—were expelled three years ago, 27 Bulgarian priests were tried with Mgr. Bossilkov, and yet others ore in prison.
Condemned to be shot with the Bishop were Fr. Kamen Vitcher, Fr. Josaphat Schiskov and Fr. Pavel Djidjov—all three well known to Assumptionist priests in England now, who studied with them for the priesthood.
Savage sentences of imprisonnttnt were passed upon the others: Fr. Peter Sariski, former seminary rector, to 20 years; Fr. Miroslav Marcev, parish priest of Barney, to 20 years; six priests to 15 years; two to 14 years; 10 to 12 years.
The usual hackneyed charges were brought against them and against 12 laymen accused with them—"spying for the Vatican," seeking to "overthrow, undermine and weaken" the State, helping to "prepare an imperialist war against the Soviet Union."
And as usual they "confessed" and pleaded for "just punishment and mercy" and "a chance to appease their wrong-doing before the nation," according to their persecutors.
Weeks before, the Minister of the Interior, General Tsankov, had settled the issue. The accused were, he declared, "reactionaries" working under the instruction of "the dark forces of the Vatican, professional warmongers and deadly enemies of peace." "And." he added, "neither Cod nor their imperial masters can help them."
The Vatican newspaper has two words for the whole tragic farce— "premeditated murder."
"All those who followed with anxiety the sad Calvary of the Bulgarian priests wished to hope if not in the clemency of the so-called court at least in some final restraint," says the Osservatore. "The verdict dispels these illusions.
"This is not the first time that Catholic priests have been sent before the firing squads by the 'new democracies'—a Yugoslav ecclesiastic is at present awaiting execution in one of Marshal Tito's prisons— but in the majority of cases they have preferred to bury them in the darkness of prisons and make their memory lost in the oblivion of distant exile.
"The sentence at Sofia tells us that the Bulgarian 'popular democracy' has not this restraint but wants blood.
"There is no alternative—either complete submission unconditionally to Communist ideology, or death.
IN TITO'S LAND
Condemned to death at age of 86
A'"-year-old Slovene priest, Fr. Karl Gnidovic, has been sentenced to death as a traitor.
He was one of 18 prisoners put on trial last month at Novo Mesto. Slovenia. Three others were sentenced to death and long terms of imprisonment were imposed on the others, including Fr. Joze Podlipnik and Fr. Vincenc Sega, the old priest's curate.
All were accused of having collaborated with the Germans during the war and working with Bishop Rozman of Ljubljana, who was sentenced some years ago in his absence as a "war criminal."
Hailing the sentence on Fr. Gnidov i e as "just punishment," the Communist newspaper Slovenski Porcevalec cites as evidence of his "traitorous" attitude the fact that he "and his stooge assistant Vincenc Sega publicly prayed in the church for 'the most reverend' war criminal Bishop Rozman."
He is a traitor. too, according to the newspaper, because he urged priests to prepare for greater sacrifices and refused Holy Communion to a woman who had contracted an illicit marriage.
FR. AUSTIN TREAMER, Provincial of the English province of the Assumplionists, commenting on the death sentences imposed on the Bulgarian Assumplionists, said to TIIL CATHOLIC HIRA; n: "The shedding of their blood—if it is to come to that—would be the last and glorious service accruing to the final victory of the Cross of Christ that they can render to the Bulgarian people."
Fr. Treamer has himself worked for years among the Catholics of the Byzantine Rite in the Balkans.
1 he Assuniptionists have been working in Bulgaria for 89 years, starting with a group of priests who went at the wish of Pope Pius IX.
They established a parish in Plovdiv and later opened a secondary school, St. Augustine's, which became one of the chief educational and cultural centres in the Balkans.
The Assumplionists actually produced the first Bulgarian grammar and dictionary.
In 1898 they opened another school at Barna, and gradually their ranks were swelled by native Bulgarian priests.
They rendered special service to the Catholics of the Byzantine Rite and were mainly responsible for a great increase of knowledge of the Oriental Rites and their history.
Bishop Kurtev, Ordinary of the Byzantine Rite—now in prison—received all his education from the Assumption i !as.
These activities of the Assumptionists served greatly to foster the nationhood of the Bulgarians.
The nation was also served by Oblate Sisters of the Assumption, who opened primary and secondary schools. dispensaries and a hospital. They also recruited and trained many Bulgarian sisters.
Fr. Treamer remarked to THE
"Such are the methods by which the Assumptionist Fathers—according to the Communist indictment— 'overthrew, undermined and weakened' the Bulgarian State."
Kerry's Bishop dies at 76
Mgr. Michael O'Brien, Bishop of Kerry, died in Killarney on Saturday, aged 76. He had been in poor health for over a year, but had attended to diocesan affairs up to the previous Monday.
Bishop O'Brien studied for the priesthood at Killarney and Maynooth and was ordained in 1901. For eight years he was Professor of History and Scripture in All Hallows College, Dublin, and was consecrated Bishop of Kerry in July, 1927.
MGR. BOSSILKOV, born on December 3, 1900, was the first Bulgarian to he consecrated a Bishop in modern times.
He studied for the priesthood with the Passionists in Holland and Belgium. was professed in 1920 and ordained in his own country in July, 1926. For some years he studied in Rome, .returned to Bulgaria, became a parish priest and then Vicar General.
He was appointed Bishop in 1947.
He speaks seven languages fluently.
Five years ago his diocese had 17 parishes, 20 churches and 23 priests —20 of them passionists, two Assumptionists and one a secular priest.
Two years later the 23 were reduced to II: the Red Government expelled the otherseight Dutch, three Italian and one Belgian.
SOFIA PARISH PRIEST DIES IN RED JAIL
News has been received in Rome of the death in prison in August of Fr. Fortunatus Bakalscki, a former Franciscan Capuchin superior, who was arrested in Sofia on July 8.
Police state that his death was due to double pneumonia. But doubt is expressed in Rome. No information about his illness was given to his family or to anyone in his parish or to his order.
Forty-two years old, Fr. Fortunatus, a Bulgarian, had always been very strong and robust. He was parish priest of the Sofia Cathedral parish and for two years superior of the Capuchins, having been elected after the arrest of his predecessor, Fr. Robert.