In the month of February 1949, the Orthodox patriarch went to Dragoslavele. He thought they’d had enough, and that the Catholic faith had been drummed out of their heads. On this occasion he offered them a sumptuous dinner of grilled turkey, wine, cake and fruit, to show them how they could be living if they would only come over to the “Orthodox” church. Seeing that our bishops said nothing, he spoke up: “If you do not become Orthodox, I will remove my protecting hand from you and you will be sent to prison.” One should note that prison was less harsh than his protection. Therefore, Bishop Joan Balan of Lugoj responded: “Holiness, if we came to believe that the so-called Orthodox church is the true Church of Christ, we would then and there give our signatures to enter this Church. But how could we believe in this Church since you have allied yourselves with the atheists in order to kill and suppress us? You did not come to us with theological arguments, nor with Christian virtues, but you had us arrested and kept as prisoners. These are surely not the methods of Jesus Christ. If the government had proposed to give us the Orthodox Church of Romania on condition that we arrest her bishops, or only one of them, we would have given our lives rather than accept. Therefore you may take our lives, but not our faith.” The patriarch went away very disconcerted.
On May 1st, 1949, all the bishops were transported from Drogoslavele to the Orthodox Convent Caldarusani; the Orthodox also brought there 34 priests who had been detained at Neamt concentration camp. Here, at Caldarusani they formed a huge concentration camp. The buildings were surrounded by barbed-wire and guarded by the Securitatea (secret police). Bishop Vasile Aftenie was transported to Bucharest where he died as a result of torture. All the others were transported to Sighet, a prison on the Russian border, for in the case of war they would be moved into the Soviet Union. This was one of the harshest communist prisons. Here three of our bishops died: V. T. Freniu (July 11, 1952), Ioan Suciu (June 27, 1953) and T. L. Chinezu (January 15, 1955). Alexander Rusu of Baia Mare died at Gherla (May 9, 1963) and Vasile Aftenie at Bucharest (May 10, 1950). Those who died at Sighet and at Gherla were buried in the cemetery of the ‘Vagabonds and Suicides’, then the ground was leveled so no one would know where they were buried. Two of our bishops died in internal exile, that is, under house arrest: Ioan Balan died in the Orthodox monastery Ciorogarla (August 4, 1958) and Juliu Kossu, still under house arrest, in the Orthodox monastery Caldarusani (May 28 1970). After the imprisonment of bishops, priests and religious, the Romanian state confiscated our churches and gave them to the Orthodox. For forty years Catholic parishes remained priestless. The faithful had to choose between the Orthodox and neo-Protestant sects, for our dear Greek Catholic Church, united to Rome, was illegal. Now we are asking the government to give us back our churches, but for political reasons they want us to come to an understanding with the Orthodox bishops who are Stalinist. Only the cathedrals of Lugoj and Blaj have been returned to us. In the other dioceses, the priests and the faithful celebrate the Mass in the public square. In some parishes, the faithful chased away the Orthodox pastor and came back to us, along with their churches. Three of our bishops died after leaving prison; others were consecrated in their place. Among the older ones, only two are still alive: Cardinal Todea and myself. When God wills, all will be restored.” –
Bishop Ploscaru died in 1998, and Cardinal Todea in May 2002. Today, 538 churches and chapels have still not been restored to the Catholic Church, nor 387 rectories, all of which belonged to the Catholic Church until 1948, no to mention 220 school buildings which were also confiscated by the communists for the benefit of the Romanian Orthodox (figures published by APIC, Catholic International Press Agency, 2/28/2003).
The original of this testimony, published in French, is kept by the director of RU press agency, of UNEC, BP 114, F-95120 St.-Gratien, phone -33-1-34-12-02-68, email@example.com