Tag Archives: communists

When World War II ended the nightmare for others began: Meet the Thirty-Eight Martyrs of Albania

Stained Glass honoring 38 Matyrs of Albania
Stained Glass honoring 38 martyrs of Albania    public domain

By Larry Peterson

When the Nazis fled Albania at the end of WW II, the communists took control of the small country. From 1945 through 1974, they ruled Albania with an iron hand banning religion, especially Catholicism. Many Catholics were brutally tortured and murdered during this period. What follows is about the 38 Martyrs of Albania who were beatified on November 5, 2016.

Father Ernest Simoni had just finished saying Christmas Mass in 1963. Suddenly and unexpectedly he was surrounded by police and arrested. He was shackled and charged with the crime of  “saying Masses for John F. Kennedy,” the American president who had been assassinated the previous month in Dallas, Texas. His next stop would be in prison, where he would endure torture and forced labor for the next 18 years.

We move ahead to April of 2016. Pope Francis was holding a ceremony recognizing 38 people who had died in the dark, dank, and disgusting prisons of Albania. The group included mostly Albanians, some Italians, and one German.  Included among them were two bishops, 21 diocesan priests, three Jesuits, seven Friars Minor, a Franciscan novice-nun, three Catholic laymen, and one seminarian. Most of them died between 1945 and 1950.

The only woman among them, Maria Tucci, was arrested on August 10, 1949.  She refused to answer her captor’s questions and was tortured over and over until August 1950. She had been so brutalized over the previous year that she required hospitalization. She died from her injuries on October 24, 1950. She was 22 years old.

Not included among them was Father Simoni. He was standing before the Holy Father. He was  88 years old and holding a box which contained the bones of ten of his countrymen. They, too, had been imprisoned in Albania. Unlike Father Simoni, they had all been executed.

Pope Francis, was honoring  Father Simoni’s faithfulness to Jesus and the faith by elevating him to the rank of Cardinal. The Pope wept as he hugged the new Cardinal saying, “Today I touched martyrs.”

Those who were present that day heard how the Albanian martyrs were tortured to death and then executed or just tortured over and over and sent to forced labor camps. The one constant among all these holy martyrs was that they were always praying to God and asking Him to forgive their killers.

Here are brief bios of the three Jesuits who were among the martyred:

  • Giovanni Fausti: He was the oldest of twelve children born in Brescia, Italy, on October 19, 1899. He began his religious studies at the age of ten and was a classmate of Giovanni Montini, the future Pope St. Paul VI. After studying at the Pontifical Lombard College in Rome, he was ordained a priest on July 9, 1922. He entered the Society of Jesus on October 30, 1924. After serving in the Italian army, he entered the Pontifical Gregorian University and became a philosophy professor. He had been in Albania twice and was sent back in 1942. He was arrested by the communists on December 31, 1945. After being held for two months and tortured almost every day, he was shot dead on March 4, 1946.

 

  • Daniel Dajani: Daniel was born in 1906, and, by the time he was twelve, he felt the calling to the priesthood. He studied hard and began his novitiate with the Jesuits on July 8, 1926. He received his teaching credentials and made his solemn profession of vows on February 2, 1942. Similar to Father Fausti, Father Daniel was arrested on December 31, 1945. He also was held for two months having to endure constant torture. And, just like Father Fausti, Father Dajani was executed on March 4, 1946.

 

 

  • Gjon Pantalia: Gjon was born in Serbia in 1887 and was related to St. Teresa of Calcutta. He did not want to be a priest, so he joined the Jesuits as a Brother. He became a teacher specializing in chorus, theater, and socio-cultural activities. He also was a writer, composer, and a spiritual director to many of his students. He was called “Brother Cornerstone” of the College of Shkodra. He was arrested in 1946 and brutally tortured. He tried to escape from prison but broke his legs jumping from a window. He was captured and thrown back in his cell. Lack of treatment and constant, unbearable pain, took its toll. He died on October 31, 1947.

 

We ask all the Martyrs of Albania to pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

Blessed Wladyslaw Findysz—He died “In Odium Fidei”; the first person martyred under Communist rule in Poland

Bl. Wladyslaw Findysz  wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Wladyslaw Findysz was born on December 13, 1907,  in Krosno, which is located in southwestern Poland. His mom and dad, devout Catholics, followed the tradition and had their new baby boy baptized the very next day at their parish church, Holy Trinity.

Wladyslaw was sent to an elementary school run by the Cistercian Sisters (CSSF) in the town of Kroscienko Nizne. After finishing grade school, he went on to a state-run school but his years with the sisters had instilled in him an attraction to the priesthood. In 1927, Wladyslaw entered the seminary in a nearby town called Przemysil. He was very fortunate for the rector of the seminary was Father John Balicki, who would be beatified in 2002. He completed his studies satisfactorily and was ordained a priest June 19, 1932.

Father Findysz was moved around quite a bit in his first ten years as a priest. Finally, in 1941, he was appointed the parochial vicar at the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Nowy Zmigrod.  On October 3, 1944, the Nazis expelled Father Findysz and many others from the city. He lived in exile for a while but did return to his church in January 1945.

He immediately began a rebuilding and reorganizing project.  When the Nazis finally surrendered in May of 1945, the communists took charge. Promoting atheism was one of their primary objectives.  Moreover, they were not only good at doing it they were also quite insistent about people embracing it.

Father  Findysz focused his pastoral work on a moral and religious renewal within his parish. He worked tirelessly at keeping the faith in focus, especially among the young people. He also did his best to help the people of his parish who had lost so much during the war and the Nazi occupation. From food, medicine, clothing, and whatever else he could gather to help those in need, he did.

Greek Catholics from Lemki were especially singled out by the communist party, and these people were often evicted from their homes without cause or reason with no chance of reprieve. The kindly priest did work tirelessly trying to help those people and the priest’s activities quickly made the communists wary of his actions.

By 1946 he was under constant surveillance by the secret police. In 1952 people in charge of academics prohibited him from teaching catechism in the parish secondary school. The authorities went so far as to rescind his permission to live within the border of the school even though it was where his parish was located.

The church authorities viewed Father Findysz as a devout and zealous priest and they honored him as an honorary canon in 1946. In 1957 he was accorded the privilege of wearing the rochet and mantelletta and was also appointed the vice-dean of Nowy Zmigrod where he was elevated to Dean in 1962.

In 1963 Father Findysz, started the “Conciliar Works of Charity.” He sent letters of exhortation to parishioners who were known to have leaned toward a secular lifestyle encouraging them to reorder their Christian lives.  The communists reacted harshly toward Father’s actions. He was accused of trying to make the faithful be part of religious rites and practices.

On November 25, 1963, he was interrogated, arrested, and imprisoned in Rzeszow castle. His trial took place in December. He was accused of violating the “Protection of the Freedom of Conscience and Denomination Act of 1949. He did this by sending newsletters to his parishioners. He was sentenced to two years and six months in Central Prison

Just before his imprisonment Father Wladyslaw had surgery to have his thyroid removed. He entered prison ill, and the authorities knew it. He also developed esophageal cancer and had to remain in the prison hospital where the care was extremely limited and substandard. He was under constant interrogation and surgery was required for his cancer. The authorities postponed the surgery sentencing Father Wladyslaw to a slow and painful death.  He died on August 21, 1964.

O June 19, 2005, Father Wladyslaw Findysz was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Blessed Wladyslaw was deemed to have died “In Odium Fidei” (In Hatred of the Faith)  He was the first martyr of the Communist Regime in Poland.

Blessed Wladyslaw, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019