Saint of the Day – 3 October – Blessed Szilárd István Bogdánffy (1911-1953) aged 42, Bishop (auxilliary), Martyr, Spiritual Director, Professor – Patronages – Bishops, Priests.
Szilárd Bogdánffy was born to Hungarian parents on 21 February 1911 in the village of Feketetó, then part of Torontál County, Austria-Hungary. He lived there with his family until 1925. He was baptised in the parish church of Čoka to which his village belonged and where his father was a cantor.
The Bogdánffy family is a Transylvanian Armenian family which was granted nobility by the Habsburgs. The Bogdánffys are a branch of an ancient Armenian Gajzágó family, one of the families that built the Transylvanian town of Szamosujvár (Armenopolis, Gherla now in Rumania) in the 18th century and which gave many Armenian Catholic (in union with Rome) Priests to the town which became the Armenian Catholic Bishopric of Transylvania.
Bogdánffy went to elementary school in Crna Bara until 1925, when the Bogdánffy family moved to Timişoara, a city in Eastern part of Banat. There he went to the Piarists high school. After his final exams, he was accepted to the Catholic seminary of the Latin-rite Diocese of Oradea. He was ordained a Priest by the Bishop of Oradea Stefan Fiedler on 29 June 1934. He continued his studies at the University of Budapest, where he earned a PhD in philosophy and dogmatics (with a thesis on “Apocalyptics in the Synoptic Gospels”). Upon his return to Romania he became professor of the Catholic seminary in Oradea and confessor at the Ursuline convent in the city. In 1939 he was followed by the Royal Romanian Secret Services for alleged anti-Romanian activity. During World War II – because he was hiding Jews – he was also interrogated by the Hungarian Fascist “Nyílas” gendarmes.
After the end of the war, the new Romanian communist leadership started a campaign against the Christian religion (especially against catholic Christians). As a consequence, the Vatican allowed secret consecration of bishops. Fr Szilárd Bogdánffy was consecrated as Bishop of Oradea of the Latins and Auxiliary Bishop of Satu Mare on 14 February 1949 by Gerald Patrick O’Hara, Regent of the Apostolic Nunciature to Bucharest. The new Bishop was arrested and imprisoned only two months later.
He had previously been approached, on several occasions, by representatives of the regime, with the request that he lead an “independent Romanian Latin-rite Church, with no ties to the Vatican” which he adamantly refused. Until his death he spent four years as a captive in various prisons throughout Romania, including the evil reputed Capul-Midia camp. He fell seriously ill, being affected by the atrocious conditions and regular torture. In Aiud Prison, as the Byzantine rite Catholic Bishop of Lugoj, Ioan Ploscaru recalled, Bishop Bogdánffy was “humble and serene, always ready to help his fellow sufferers.” Although suffering with serious pneumonia, the prison doctor refused him the necessary medication claiming he was not worthy of it. He died in solitary confinement on 3 October 1953 in the prison of Aiud, Romania.
His Beatification took place on 30 October 2010 in Oradea as approved by Pope Benedict XVI.
His Beatification Mass with 200 Priests, 42 Bishops and two Cardinal. Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, preached. Cardinal Angelo Amato, President of the Congregation for causes of the Saints, presided on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI.
He is the first Catholic martyred during the Communist regime in Romania to be elevated to the honour of the altars.