Friday, July 07, 2006

Martyr for the flock's safety (Vilmos Apor)

On March 28, 1945, Russian soldiers reached Gyor, Hungary. Good Friday was near, and Bishop Vilmos Apor wrote in his diary, “'Good Friday was the day when the Redeemer of the World sacrificed his life for those he had remembered the day before in his prayer as High Priest, ‘Father, they were yours and you gave them to me. I took under my care those you had given me.’”
The bishop visited his priests, went to see nuns in their convents, and tried to prepare everyone for what was to come. Many frightened people sought refuge in Bishop Apor’s residence. His door was open for everyone in danger, and he was prepared to lay down his life for them. He sent the male refugees to his mansion in Szany and kept the women, children and elderly in his residence in Gyor. Since the siege of Gyor, the visits of the Russians to Bishop Apor’s residence became more and more frequent. He didn’t have a moment’s sleep, saying, “I must be awake in case anything happens.” He said his last mass on Maundy Thursday. His niece, who was with the bishop, described the mass like those of the early Christians in the Catacombs. On Good Friday, he only read the story of the Christ’s passion. On the same day, he said, “We must all die one day, and one had better sacrifice one's life for a good cause on a day like this.”
That evening, Russian soldiers came to the Bishop’s residence and asked for women to make them “peel potatoes.” The bishop knew what they meant, since they all wanted the women. Bishop Apor sent them the elderly men and women. Later, five drunk Russian soldiers returned. They saw one girl and chased her. Seeing this, Bishop Apor chased the soldiers away and shouted, “Out! Out of here!” The soldiers went to the exit and shot the bishop. The bishop’s nephew, who tried to protect him, was also wounded. Bishop Apor was shot three times. Seeing him, one of the women said, “Our father bishop, you have done this for us!” Bishop Apor replied, “Willingly, very willingly.” They took Bishop Apor on a stretcher and brought him to the hospital. Each time he met, Russians, Bishop Apor blessed them and said, “May God forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
Bishop Apor was operated on immediately. On Easter Sunday, his health deteriorated. He received the last Sacraments. Before dying, the people around him wrote his last message:
“My warmest greetings to my priests. May they remain faithful to the Church! They should preach the Gospel courageously, help to rebuild our unfortunate Fatherland, and lead our poor, misled people back to the right road. I offer all my sufferings to make up for my own sins, and also for my priests, my followers, the country's leaders and my enemies! I ask God not to hold them responsible for the sins they committed against the Church in their blindness. I offer my sufferings for my beloved Hungary, and for the whole world. St Stephen, pray for the poor Hungarians.”
He died on the following day, Easter Monday, for his flock's safety.


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