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Bishop Gojdič: Waiting for a miracle

Hundreds have been coming every day to the Saint Ján Krstiteľ Church in Prešov to kneel by the remains of Bishop Pavol Gojdič. Flowers are arranged before the glass-faced casket and pray quietly for the miracle that could elevate the Slovak martyr from beatification to sainthood.
"I'm praying for a miracle," said Martina Vanšačiková, 17. "Gojdič had a golden heart. He was a father to the people."
"He's one step away from being a saint," said Jana Hlavatá, 36. "We know it will happen. To us he's already a saint."


The man with the golden heart was beatified by Pope John Paul II last month. In the Prešov diocese July 17 has been set aside in his memory.

Hundreds have been coming every day to the Saint Ján Krstiteľ Church in Prešov to kneel by the remains of Bishop Pavol Gojdič. Flowers are arranged before the glass-faced casket and pray quietly for the miracle that could elevate the Slovak martyr from beatification to sainthood.

"I'm praying for a miracle," said Martina Vanšačiková, 17. "Gojdič had a golden heart. He was a father to the people."

"He's one step away from being a saint," said Jana Hlavatá, 36. "We know it will happen. To us he's already a saint."

Last month Gojdič became the first Slovak ever to be beatified. Five thousand Slovaks travelled to the Vatican for the two-and-a-half hour beatification ceremony performed by Pope John Paul II.

Born in 1888, the Greek-Catholic bishop was sentenced in the 1950s to life in prison for refusing to convert to Russian Orthodox (see side bar). He became a martyr when he died in prison in 1960.

"People used to call him the man with the golden heart. But he became a thorn in the eye of communists," said the Pope. "He was a victim in the service of the Greek Catholic church, and today deserves the crown of glory."

Beatification is one step below sainthood. Catholics may pray through Gojdič and worship him publicly. In the Prešov diocese July 17 has been set aside in his memory.

For a person to be beatified it must be proven that he or she has produced a miracle. An additional miracle must be proven to raise him or her to sainthood. Martyrs may be beatified without a miracle, which was Gojdič's case, but do need a miracle to become saints.

Around 1,300 people have been beatified by Pope John Paul II, of which only 452 were later canonized.

A miracle usually involves a drastic improvement in the health of someone who has prayed to the candidate for sainthood. Science must be able to document but not explain the change.

Edith Stein, a catholic nun of Jewish origin who died in a Nazi concentration camp, was beatified following her role in a miracle in the late 1980s. The father of a toddler who had ingested 10 times the lethal amount of Tylenol prayed that Stein save his daughter. The child lived.

Jan Krehlik, who prepared Gojdič's case for beatification, said he was sure Gojdič would become Slovakia's first saint if a miracle could be proven. Thousands have come so far to pray for that miracle.

"We need people to keep praying," said Krehlik. "I believe the miracle will come soon."

With Chris Togneri

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