Theodore George Romzha (Ukrainian: Теодор Юрій Ромжа, Hungarian: Romzsa Tódor György, 14 April 1911 – 31 October 1947) was the bishop of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Mukacheve from 1944 to 1947. Assassinated by the NKVD, he was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001.
|Eparch of Mukacheve|
Romzha in 1936
|Church||Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church|
|Diocese||Eparchy of Mukacheve|
|Appointed||8 September 1944|
|Term ended||31 October 1947|
|Successor||vacant till 1983, then Ivan Semedi|
|Ordination||25 December 1936 (Priest)|
|Consecration||24 September 1944 (Bishop)|
|Born||14 April 1911|
Nagybocskó, Austria-Hungary (now Velykyi Bychkiv, Ukraine)
|Died||31 October 1947 (aged 36)|
Uzhhorod, Ukrainian SSR
|Feast day||31 October (martyrdom); 28 June (translation of relics)|
|Venerated in||Greek Catholic Churches|
Roman Catholic Church
|Title as Saint||Blessed Martyr|
|Beatified||27 June 2001|
by Pope John Paul II
Theodore Romzha was born in Nagybocskó, Subcarpathia, Austria-Hungary (in a village inhabited by Rusyn and Hungarian population, today Velykyi Bychkiv, Ukraine) on 14 April 1911. He was baptized as Tivadar György, and Hungarian nationality was indicated in the document.
His father, Pavel Romzha, worked as an official of the railroad. His mother, born Maria Semack, was a full-time homemaker. Like many ambitious families in the region, the Romzhas spoke the Hungarian language at home. In the presence of others, however, they switched to the Rusyn language. After his graduation from the Gymnasium in Khust, and with help of Péter Gebé, Theodore left to study for the priesthood in Rome. He began as a seminarian at the Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum, and later switched to the Russicum.
Romzha's life was a beautiful example of how different nationalities can live together. To all his priests he spoke in their native language, and he used his name in the form of Tódor in Hungarian texts.
Theodore was ordained a priest there by Bishop Aleksander Evreinov on Christmas Day, 1936 in the Basilica of St Mary Major. After completing his compulsory military service he served briefly as a pastor in several Transcarpathian parishes (part of Czechoslovakia since 1918) before being assigned as professor of philosophy at the Eparchial Seminary in Ungvár (now Uzhhorod) in 1939, by then again part of Hungary.
These were difficult years for the Church in Subcarpathia as it experienced the re-annexion in 1938 by Hungary, as the result of the First Vienna Award, then direct invasion from Nazi Germany and lastly the Soviet Red Army.
On 24 September 1944, at the young age of 33, he was consecrated bishop and appointed apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of Mukacheve in the cathedral of Uzhorod by Bishop Miklós Dudás, O.S.B.M., in co-consecration by János Scheffler (Hungarian Greek Catholic bishop of Szatmár), and István Madarász (Hungarian Greek Catholic bishop of Kassa). He immediately had to face the Soviet Red Army, which occupied the churches, assigned them to the Russian Orthodox Church and arrested their priests. Bishop Romzha refused to break with the Pope in front of General Petrov.
He organized a celebration of the Feast of the Assumption with the participation of more than 80,000 pilgrims but this was not tolerated by the Communist officials who now began plotting to dispose of the young bishop. On 27 October 1947, on the way home from a parish visitation, Bishop Romzha's horse-drawn carriage was purposely rammed by a Soviet military truck and pushed off the side of the road. The soldiers, who were dressed as civilians, jumped from the truck and beat the bishop and his companions.
Soon after the brutal assault began, a civilian truck came upon the scene and the assailants fled. Romzha and his companions were taken to Uzhhorod, where they were hospitalized. Romzha was making good progress when, late on the night of 31 October, the nuns who were nursing him were suddenly dismissed and a new nurse was assigned to him by the regime. A little after midnight Moscow Time, Romzha was found dead. The nurse had poisoned Romzha with an injection of curare provided by the head of NKVD Laboratory 12, Dr Grigory Mairanovsky. According to research in Soviet archives by Yevgenia Albats, the Bishop's murder was personally ordered by Nikita Khrushchev.
On 4 November 1947, a large crowd attended Romzha's funeral, despite Soviet efforts to shut down and block public transportation. He was buried in the crypt of the Holy Cross Cathedral in Uzhhorod. The Ruthenian Catholic Church was relentlessly persecuted and in 1949, it was officially suppressed. All of its properties were allocated to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Feast day and relicsEdit
Romzha was beatified as a Martyr for the Faith by Pope John Paul II in Lviv on 27 June 2001, with 1 November assigned initially as his feast day. At the request of the Eparchy of Mukacheve, the Congregation for Oriental Churches transferred the feast day to 31 October, effective 2009. Romzha died shortly after midnight 1 November, according to Moscow Time, the Soviet-imposed time zone throughout Ukraine from 1930-1990; however, according to local time, Romzha died before midnight on 31 October.
In 1998, the relics of Blessed Theodore were found in a tomb in the crypt of Holy Cross Cathedral in Uzhhorod, and then transported to Budapest, Hungary for medical examination. On 27-28 June 2003 his relics were translated and carried in solemn procession back to Uzhhorod, where they are enshrined in a side chapel at Holy Cross Cathedral. In commemoration of the event, a second feast day, the Translation of the Holy Relics of Blessed Theodore Romzha, is celebrated on 28 June.
- "Bishop Bl. Théodore Georges Romzha". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
- "Blessed Theodore Romzha", Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic
- Mattei, Giampaolo (7 February 2001). "The Servant of God Bishop Theodore Romnza". L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English. Rome: 8.
- Vadim J. Birstein. The Perversion Of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science. Westview Press (2004); ISBN 0-8133-4280-5
- According to the KGB archives, "By order of Khrushchev,... Romzha, head of the Greek Catholic Church, who actively resisted the incorporation of the Greek Catholic Church into Russian Orthodoxy, was eliminated", from Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia - Past, Present, and Future, 1994; ISBN 0-374-18104-7, p. 33
- Paul Robert Magocsi. "Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo". World Academy of Rusyn Culture. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
- Magocsi, Paul Robert and Ivan Pop (2005). Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3566-3.
- Fr. Laslo Puskas (2002). Theodore Romzha: His Life - Times and Martyrdom. Fairfax, Virginia: ECPublications.
- Fr. Christoper Zugger, Finding a Hidden Church, Eastern Christian Publications, Fairfax, Virginia, 2009.