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Blessed Eugene Bossilkov, arrested as a Catholic subversive

Blessed Eugene Bossilkov, Bishop

Feast: Nov. 11

Born: Nov. 16, 1900

Died: 1952

Claim to fame: In a time and place when being Catholic wasn’t even legal, Eugene Bossilkov was renowned as a preacher for the faith. He was a popular pastor in Bulgaria and was ordained Bishop of Nicopolis in 1947. In 1952, Bishop Bossilkov was arrested as a Catholic subversive, found guilty and executed.

Why he is a saint: Bulgaria had been invaded by the Soviet Union after the retreat of German troops in World War II. The Soviets began a round of religious persecutions aimed at wiping out anything that might oppose the power of the new Communist regime. After the apostolic delegate to Bulgaria was expelled, and laws were passed confiscating all church property, Bishop Bossilkov preached dynamic missions to prepare for the persecution he knew was imminent.

He was arrested while on vacation in Sofia, along with 40 other priests, religious and Catholic lay people. The charge was being the chief of a Catholic subversive spy organization. The official sentence condemned Bossilkov to death by firing squad, and ordered all his goods confiscated. The sentencing document said Bossilkov “convoked a diocesan council in which it was decided to combat Communism through religious conferences, held in Bulgaria, activities called ‘a mission’. No appeal of his sentence is possible.”

Best quote: Just before his execution in the prison at Sofia on Nov. 11, he said, “Don’t worry about me; I have been given God’s grace, and I am going to remain faithful to Christ and to the church.”

How he died: After execution, Bossilkov’s body was thrown in a common grave for criminals; the precise location of his burial place and his body are unknown. Rumors of his death reached Rome, but his death was not verified until 1975, when the Bulgarian chief of state, in reply to a direct question from Pope Paul, said, “Bishop Bossilkov died in prison 23 years ago.”

Prayer: St. Eugene, you were faithful to Christ and to the church even to the point of death. We ask you to pray for us that we too may stand up for what we truly believe, regardless of the cost. Amen.