2011-07-12 • JUBILEE
Three Days of Blessed Theodore Romzha
in order to become another Jesus and a new Romzha
in the living bonds of love.”
The Eparchy of Mukachevo held a three day celebration to mark the Jubilee year of +Blessed Theodore Romzha. The celebration took place from June 26 - 28, 2011. Remembering the 100th anniversary of +Blessed Theodore's birth (1911), the tenth anniversary of his beatification as "blessed" (2001) and the 75th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood (1936), the three days were jointly led by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, His Eminence, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Rome and the bishop of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, Most Reverend Milan Sasik, CM.
The Sunday, June 26 celebration began with Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at Holy Cross Cathedral in Uzhgorod. The Hierarchical Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Milan Sasik (Mukachevo) and Bishop Peter Fulop Kocsis (Hajdudorog, Hungary). In his homily, Bishop Milan emphasized the meaning of the Word of God and stressed the essence of Vocation:
“Jesus passing by the lake of Genezareth saw and called… Andrew and Peter were working with their father. That was their everyday toil – fishing. But Jesus said to them: “I will make you fishers of men”… They became apostles and accompanied Jesus. This is very important moment in the history of Christianity, in the history of the Catholic Church. Because from that starts vocation, starts that which cannot be explained in human words: simple men until then unacquainted with the Teacher became apostles on whom Jesus built His Church. And Simon whose name Jesus changed to Peter – rock, indeed became important stone in the construction of the Christ’s Church. On the basis of his faith and love Christ built Universal Church. Peter became the first bishop of Rome, there he settled, there he died a martyr death crucified head down, there, on Vatican hill he was also buried. And above his tomb raises grand basilica. But with the Peter the story was not ended. After Peter there was elected new bishop of Rome… And so it is even until now the Peter of our time wears the name Benedict XVI. That’s why we are here now because of the first calling of the apostle Peter… And it was worth for Simon to leave fisher nets, it was worth for him to leave all in order to follow Jesus. Peter did not live to see any triumphs or human glory… But he carried the strength of the Holy Spirit and witnessed Risen Christ in order to die out of love on the cross. And thus, my dear, even until present time the witness of the bishop of Rome is very important for the life of the Church. And the bishop of Rome continues his service. And for the sake of faithfulness to the bishops of Rome died our Blessed Martyr Theodore. We have among us a martyr for the unity of the Christ’s Church, martyr for the unity with the successor of the Apostle Peter. It was enough for him just to sign that he denies the unity with the Holy Father (Universal Hierarch) Pope Pius XII and joins the Moscow Patriarchate. And that’s all. He could remain in his residence. But he did not do that. Because that would mean breaking of the conscience, that would be the sin against truth, love, justice, and he chose the way of suffering, death. Although, humanly speaking it seemed that it is the end now we are thankful to our Vladyka Theodore for in him manifested mighty power of the Holy Spirit, Power of God and we are grateful to this Divine might that today we are…
After the Liturgy took place Eucharistic procession in honor of the feast of the Most Holy Eucharist that was celebrated on Thursday June 23. There were many faithful present.
In the afternoon His Eminence Cardinal Leonardo Sandri was warmly welcomed on the border of L’viv and Transcarpathian regions by the clergy and faithful of Volovets, Svaljava and Mizhhirja deaneries. Clergy sincerely wished to His Eminence a wonderful stay in our region and expressed sincere gratitude for his visit. After that there was a supper at the convent house of the nuns of Saint Basil the Great in Mukachevo where Cardinal Sandri met with the representatives of monastic orders that actively work in our eparchy. First day of celebration was completed with the sacred music choir concert at the Holy Cross cathedral featuring our well-known chamber choir “Kantus.”
On Monday, June 27, a conference dedicated to the +Blessed Martyr Theodore was held at the Theological Academy of +Blessed Theodore Romzha. Participants and guests were greeted by His Eminence, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Bishop Milan and Father Taras Lovska, Rector of the Seminary. Guest lecturers each spoke about aspects of the life of +Blessed Theodore, the Bishop-Martyr. +Blessed Theodore and other confessors of the faith of the time would rather suffer the Stalin labor camps than betray Christ. If not for these followers, the Church would have ceased to exist in Transcarpathia.
An art exhibit at the Academy featured the contemporary works of Vasyl Skakadnij, a well known artist from Transcarpathia. Among the paintings featured in the exhibit were watercolors of Wooden Churches of Transcarpathia.
In the afternoon Cardinal Sandri visited Mukachevo. In the Assumption cathedral His Eminence gave Apostolic blessing and passed the greeting from the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the gathered faithful. After that His Eminence visited the construction of the new parish church of SS Cyril and Methodius in the micro district Rosvyhovo. Later on the Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches met with the representatives of State Administration of the Transcarpathian region and also visited Mukachevo Monastery of Saint Basil the Great.
Cardinal Sandri addressed the seminarians of Blessed Theodore Academy later that evening and stressed:
“We all know the reason of our meeting here in Uzhgorod… Today at the conference was represented the heroic figure of Vladyka Theodore. I accompanied then, 10 years ago, Holy Father John Paul II during his visit to Ukraine when Theodore Romzha was proclaimed blessed. There are many moments from his life that need to be known and stressed. We can say that he is a shepherd that cares for his flock and cherishes it, gives all his strength to it and finally sacrifices his life, therefore he is indeed a hero. What was the life secret of this personality – of Vladyka Theodore Romzha? I think that he was truly dementedly in love with Jesus Christ. Thus it was his strength that helped him to go through all the obstacles that he faced. This martyr, the relics of whom you have now here at the Seminary, in the church where he could so deeply get to know Jesus Christ, to find such a great love for Him? Surely at the seminary. I don’t know whether you know that time of silence, the time of persecution of the Church, which ended after 1989, because majority of you were born already in time of freedom. You already received the Church that came out of catacombs and reviving. You are heirs of that great past and of those persecutions, of history, you can live already in this time when Church is renewing. As Theodore Romzha was formed in the school of evangelization, at the seminary, so you, now, in the year 2011, in 21st century, - in the period of difficulties and uncertainty. We all await that from the Uzhgorod Seminary will come out priests that will be in love with Jesus Christ that would truly love Him and will be on the way to sanctity. Holiness, to which we are all called and from which we are still very distant because of our sins, our egoism. And despite this, everyday should be for us a new beginning, saying every morning: “Lord I am here to do Your Will! I am here to pray, to study, to live in brotherly love” in order to become truly another Christ. Therefore I say that you are my hope, the hope of the entire Church and also of the Holy Father Benedict XVI: faith is strong, upright and reliable, in order to face the worldly darkness everyday, to live according to the commandment of Jesus Christ. We hope that the Seminary in Uzhgorod will be also the place of the profound formation, the complete formation in fidelity and faith that you received, so that new Romzhas come out from here. May the Lord protect us from blood shedding, from martyrdom, but, as said Saint Augustine, “each day is our martyrdom.” Each day we have to offer to the Lord our body and our soul that is all our being. This is my wish to all of you with great joy. I see on your faces a big joy that you are here, that you obeyed the Lord’s call, that you followed Him to ensure the future for the Mukachevo Church, full of grace and sanctity…”
Encased in a glass ark, +Blessed Theodore's relics remained in the Church at the Seminary throughout the night for veneration.
Tuesday, June 28, an errant morning rainbow, a tell-tale sign of rain looming on the horizon, lingered during Matins on Tuesday which were prayed from the outside altar erected at the Seminary. The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy began later that morning amid a cloud-filled sky threatening to send wind, rain, and cooler temperatures to the crowd that had gathered to pray. However, the morning clouds soon gave way to sunlight and warmth which filled the Seminary grounds during most of the Hierarchical Liturgy and Procession after. His Eminence Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Bishop Milan, together with 10 bishops and 200 priests from neighboring Eparchies of the Ukraine and also from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Belorussia, U.S.A. and other countries were present to pray. At the Academy courtyard there gathered for more than five thousand faithful from all over the region.
In honor of the celebrations of the Transference of the Relics of +Blessed Theodore Romzha, Cardinal Sandri presented a silver medal of the pontificate of the Pope of Rome, Benedict XVI, "as a sign of the Holy Father's love and desire to be present with us and also of our love to the Holy Father." During the sermon His Eminence indicated: “We feel the presence of Blessed Theodore among us and also of unforgettable Blessed Pope John Paul II that beatified him and that on May 1st of this year reached the same goal.” The Eparchy presented Cardinal Leonardo Sandri with a painting by Vasyl Skakadnij, a watercolor, depicting a familiar symbol-- the Wooden Church-- of the Transcarpathian region.
A great procession with the relics of +Blessed Theodore formed from the Academy to the Holy Cross Cathedral Church. Several hundred priests and a crowd estimated to be in the thousands filled the streets of Uzhgorod. The distance between the two holy places was knit by a "living chain" consisting of hierarchs, clergy, religious and faithful of all ages: faithful young girls in National Folk costume, old grandmothers ceaselessly petitioning the Mother of God on our behalf, and young men who carried their restless children on their backs. Old women processed prayerfully from remote villages of the region, singing long forgotten songs that seemed to breath from the past. Priests changed turns to carry the precious ark containing the holy relics of Blessed Theodore. As the ark shifted hands and changed shoulders from priest to priest as if in the hands of God, the men who form the priesthood of Jesus Christ take upon their shoulders the living burden of the Cross of Christ. Arriving at the wall dedicated to the many Martyrs who gave their lives willingly for their faith, and beneath the joyously triumphant yellow walls of the recently refurbished Episcopal residence and Chancery offices with Holy Cross Cathedral in the not so far distance, a Panachida was prayed, led by Vladyka Milan, Bishop of Mukachevo. The essence of these three days reminds us of the fact that +Blessed Theodore Romzha, martyred for the Faith, is the living incarnation of the bond of God's great love for humankind that no one could ever loosen or break!