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April 25, 2020

Father Petru Focsaneanu, Tortured to Death for Celebrating the Resurrection Service in his Prison Cell (+ 1953)

Hieromartyr Petru Focsaneanu was born on April 18, 1914 in the Podu Turcului commune of Bacau County, Romania. He attended primary school in the village, then the Theological Seminary in Galati, and continued his studies for two years at the School of Theology in Bucharest. He interrupted his studies however due to his precarious financial situation. He was ordained a priest in 1935 and served in the newly-constructed Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the village of Tipletesti of the Alexandreni commune in Balti County. The construction of the church was carried out with great difficulty due to the lack of financial means, until 1938. Due to the insistence of the parish priest and the parish council, at the meeting of the Diocesan Council on April 1, 1938, the request to grant aid for the completion of the construction of the church was approved from the diocesan budget. The church was completed in the autumn of the same year.

On June 28, 1940, Soviet troops entered Bessarabia. Together with the civil and military authorities, 486 priests from Bessarabia retreated across the Prut, of which 237 were from the Hotin Diocese. Out of the 166 parishes in Balti County, 94 priests took refuge. Father Petru Focsaneanu, together with his presbytera Melania and their daughter, had to take refuge as well. The remaining priests were forced by the Soviet authorities to pay excessive taxes, others subjected to repression through arrests, deportations to Siberia, being forced to perform various degrading tasks, humiliated, beaten and even killed. Many churches were also destroyed during that period.

During his refuge, Father Petru Focseneanu served at the Church of Saint George in Ploiesti, in the villages of Sarbi and Danceni, in the parish of Podu Turcului. If in PloieČ™ti he was considered by many to be a refugee, he did not feel at home near his native village. For these reasons, he would write: “I feel that I started a house and I didn't finish it. Therefore, I want nothing more than to serve again in the church in Alexandreni."

After the liberation of Bessarabia, religious life returned to normal. Refugee priests returned to their parishes to resume pastoral activity. Father Petru Focsaneanu also served in the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the village of Tipletesti of the Alexandreni commune until October 1943. He was appointed military priest and sent to the eastern front, together with the 1st Mountain Hunters Division. He arrived in Crimea, in Simferopol, then on the front in the Iasi region, and after August 23, 1944, on the one in Transylvania. After leaving, he served in the Bordeni parish, Prahova county, Podu Turcului, then at Nistoresti, Valcea county.

In May 1948, Father Petru Focsaneanu was arrested. He was accused of “Legionary political activity” and considered a “trusted man” of Metropolitan Visarion Puiu, declaring the communists as “war criminals”. In response, Father Petru rejected all the accusations, stating strongly: "I have never been involved in any kind of politics, considering my political offiliation a humiliation to the priestly office." And "it is not true that I would have been involved in Legionary politics, nor did I ever sympathize with this movement, nor did I ever make my presence in any form on behalf this movement." Due to lack of evidence he was released. He was arrested again, however, and tried to escape, but was caught and investigated. Following the signing of commitments, he was released.

Gherla Penitentiary

The last parish of Father Petru Focsaneanu was in Nistoresti, Valcea County. Here he was involved in the activity of anti-communist resistance groups in the Vrancea Mountains, which is why he was arrested in August 1950 and tried by the Galati Military Tribunal, being sentenced to ten years in prison with confiscation of property. He was imprisoned in the Gherla penitentiary.

While in prison, Father Petru dared to celebrate the Service of Resurrection in his cell on the Feast of Pascha. When he sang "Christ is Risen!", all the prisoners joined in from their cells. He gave the prisoners joy and hope with the light of the Resurrection of Christ in the darkness and loneliness of their confinement. And they had a sense of freedom. However, Father Petru was subjected to unspeakable tortures for doing this, because of which at the age of only 39 years old, he departed to the Lord, on June 17, 1953.