When the communist party seized power in the late 1940s it launched a campaign of repression against organised religion. The campaign included the forced transformation of Slovakia's minority Greek-Catholic church into the Russian Orthodox church. Church keys passed from Greek-Catholic to Russian Orthodox hands overnight.
One of two Greek-Catholic Bishops in Slovakia, Pavol Gojdič opposed the move, refusing to co-operate with authorities who offered him a high function in a new Czechoslovak Orthodox diocese. A police report following a Prague interrogation in 1950 said that he had, "spoken only in a Šariš [eastern Slovak] dialect so no one would understand him."
In 1951, authorities seized Gojdič's property, fined him 200,000 Czechoslovak crowns and sentenced him to life in prison. Gojdič, then almost 60, refused to sign a document declaring himself Russian orthodox in exchange for his freedom.
In prison he was kept in solitary confinement and made to work in a mine. Sometimes guards forced him to do squats while kicking him.
Witnesses reported Gojdič performed secret masses inside prison, told fellow inmates he forgave those who tortured him and offered to do the work of weaker inmates. His sentence was reduced in 1953 from life to 25 years in prison. He died seven years later on July 17, his 72nd birthday.
The vote to beatify him - which required only a simple majority of a secret council of cardinals - was unanimous.
3. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Matthew J. Reynolds