Thursday, June 30, 2016

Procession in Ukraine to Honor Bl. Theodore Romzha

A good friend of mine, Mr Marc Williams, whose work we have featured here before on a few occasions, is spending his summer in the Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod, learning about the language, faith and traditions of the Rusyn people in Transcarpathia. On Tuesday, he attended the procession held every year in honor of Blessed Theodore Romzha, a Greek-Catholic bishop of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, who was martyred in 1947, and took these pictures, which we are thankful to him for sharing with us, along with a description of the ceremony. The complete photoset can be see at the Facebook page A Traveller in Carpathia.

Every year on June 28th, the Greek Catholic community in the Eparchy of Mukachevo in Ukraine celebrates the Feast of the Translation of the Holy Relics of the Bishop and New Martyr Theodore Romzha.

The icon of Bl. Theodore used at the ceremonies described below.
Fr. Theodore Romzha was consecrated Bishop of the Eparchy of Mukachevo in 1944, after the death of Bishop Stojka (likely from poisoning) in 1943. He was a shepherd who led his flock without fear during the Soviet persecution and suppression of the Greek-Catholic Church. He is often remembered for encouraging the faithful by saying, “Faith is our greatest treasure on this earth. To preserve our faith we must even be ready to lay down our life. If we must die, then let us die as true martyrs, defending our faith. One thing is sure; that we will never abandon our faith nor betray our Church.” The communists had first thought they might be able to force the conversion of this young bishop, consecrated at only thirty-three years of age, but it soon became evident that he would not abandon the Catholic Church. They then began confiscating church property, even taking his car so he could not travel long distances, none of which deterred him from carrying out his duties.

On October 27th, 1947, while making visits in the countryside to encourage the faithful, his carriage was hit by a Soviet truck, he and those travelling with him were then beated and left for dead. He was able to be taken to a hospital, and still recovering from his injuries when he was poisoned by the NKVD on November 1st, for refusing to renounce Rome and place himself under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church.

The faithful gather with banners for the liturgies and following procession.
In 2003, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Josef Tomko as a special envoy for a ceremony during which the relics of Bishop Romzha were be transferred from Hungary to the Cathedral in Uzhhorod in Ukraine. Tens of thousands of people participated. coming from Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine, along with as a delegation from the Ruthenian Catholic Church in America. Priests who had been riding with Bishop Romzha when their carriage was hit, and were also beaten alongside him, gave testimony regarding his life and death.

Two days ago, the thirteenth annual celebration of this translation was attended by thousands of the faithful, over a hundred and fifty priests, and nine bishops. The principal celebrant of the Divine Liturgy was Metropolitan Eugeniusz Popowicz, archbishop of the Byzantine Rite diocese of Przemysl-Warsaw, joined by the Hungarian Greek Catholic Metropolitan Pèter Fülöp, archbishop of Hajdùdgorog, Metropolitan Ihor Vozniak of the Archeparchy of Lviv, Bishop Orosz Atanaz of the Eparchy of Miskolc, Bishop Milan Chautur of the Eparchy of Kosice, Bishop Milan Sasik of the Eparchy of Mukachevo and his auxiliary, Bishop Nil Lushchak.

The feast started with Matins, followed by the Divine Liturgy, and then the procession with the relics from the Greek Catholic Seminary to the Cathedral in Uzhhorod, a distance of approximately four kilometers. As we walked through town, people came out of their houses and shops to watch the procession, and venerate them; some women even threw roses out onto the road before the relics as they passed by, as the faithful proudly sang the troparion of Blessed Bishop Romzha:

“O priest martyr Theodore, following the Apostles’ path of piety, as a good shepherd guarding Christ’s flock, you laid down your life; for having been slain by the godless, o Blessed One, adorned with wounds you entered into eternal joy, o Long-Suffering One, and received from the Lamb of God the crown of glory. Pray to Him to save our souls!”

The procession ended with the relics being taken into the Cathedral, where the faithful were given the opportunity to venerate them. Although his principal feast on the calendar is kept on the day of his death, it was explained to me that this has really become the main occasion to honor the Blessed Bishop Romzha for the Greek-Catholic faithful, as evidenced by the many thousands who participated.

Holy Bishop and New Martyr Theodore Romzha, pray to God for us!

Singing of the Gospel at Matins 
The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy

The relics pass by the Orthodox cathedral of Uzhhorod.
The procession arrives at the Greek-Catholic cathedral.

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