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Bl. Kamen Vitchev*
13-Nov

Also "Peter Vicev." Born May 23, 1893.

From vatican.va:
Kamen Vitchev was born in Strem, Diocese of Thrace (department of Bourgas) in Bulgaria on 23 May 1893. His parents belonged to the Eastern Rite Church. He was baptized Peter. He attended school in Strem and in 1903 was accepted into the grammar school of Kara-Agatch in Adrianopoli where he continued his studies until 1907, when he moved to Phanaraki (on the outskirts of Istanbul) and remained there until 1909. On 8 September 1910 he began his novitiate with the Augustinians of the Assumption (Assumptionists) in Gemp and received the name "Kamen". He made his final profession in 1912 in Limperzberg. He began his ecclesiastical studies that same year and in 1918 he was made professor at the College of St Augustine in Plovdiv and then at the Little Seminary of Koum Kapou in Istanbul. In 1920 he returned to Louvaine to complete his studies and the following year he was made professor of theology in Kadiköy where he taught until 1925. On 22 December 1921 at Kadiköy (a suburb of Istanbul), he was ordained priest in the Eastern Rite.

In 1927 he went to Rome and Strasbourg to continue his studies and in 1929 he obtained a doctorate in theology. In 1930 he went back to the College of St Augustine in Plovidiv, Bulgaria, where he was eventually college rector, dean of studies, and lecturer in philosophy until the Communists closed the school on 2 August 1948. Fr Kamen had a seemingly "severe" nature, and he governed with authority; his students, however, had a deep respect for him. He did much for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, and welcomed to the school all believers without distinction; Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Jews and Muslims lived together in perfect harmony.

He was often asked to give lectures on issues regarding young people and social life. He wrote articles for the magazine Istina and for the "Review of Byzantine Studies". He also published numerous articles for scientific newspapers and magazines, using different "pen-names". In 1948, when the college was closed by the government authorities, Fr Kamen was named superior of the Seminary of Plovdiv. In 1948 when all foreign religious were expelled from Bulgaria, he was appointed Provincial Vicar of the Bulgarian Assumptionists. There were twenty of them; they staffed five Eastern Rite parishes and four Latin parishes. In a letter sent to the Superior General, Fr Kamen foresaw a terrible future: "The Iron Curtain becomes increasingly thick, without doubt, they are preparing dossiers on Catholic priests ... ". On 4 July 1952 he was arrested, accused of heading a Catholic conspiracy against the State. There was no news of his whereabouts until on 20 September when the newspapers published an accusation against a list of 40 people condemned as "spies for the Vatican and the French and conspirators, seeking to foment an imperialist war against the USSR, Bulgaria and the Popular Democracies". Fr Kamen was on this list as the organizer of the conspiracy.

***

The trial of the 40 Bulgarian Catholic priests, religious and laity, including these three martyrs, began on 29 September 1952 in Bulgaria's Supreme Court in Sofia. Among them was also Blessed Eugene Bossilkov, Passionist, and Bishop of Nicopoli, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 15 March 1998. The prisoners were abused and tortured, the recipients of an "act of accusation against the Catholic Organization of Conspiracy and Espionage in Bulgaria". The allegation accused them of being "organized and directed ever since 9 September 1944, an organization whose objective was to invert, undermine, and weaken the popular democratic power through a coup d'Etat, insurrection, revolts, terrorist acts, crimes, and foreign armed interventions".

They were also declared "members of an espionage and conspiracy organization, in several of the country's cities, preparing an imperialist war against the USSR, Bulgaria and other countries of popular democrary". The sentence, announced on 3 October 1952, eve of the opening of the 19th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow, declared the three Assumptionist religious "guilty of having organized and directed in Bulgaria, since 9 September 1944 until the summer of 1952, a clandestine organization, a secret service agency of the Pope and of imperialists", and condemned them "to death by a firing squad with privation of their rights, confiscating all their properties in benefit of the State".

On 19 September 1995 the process was begun for the cause of the martyrdom of the three Assumptionists. Many years of silence passed before it was known whether those condemned had been executed and where they were buried. It was only after the fall of the Berlin wall (November 1989) and the opening up of the archives of the fallen Communist regimes that researchers could discover that they had been shot on 11 November 1952 in the central prison of Sofia and piece together what happened to them after their arrest. The Exarch emeritus who was in jail at the time is still living as are many former students.

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April 23, 2014

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