Vladimir Ghika – prince, priest and martyr

Vladimir Ghika (or Ghica, December 25, 1873, Constantinople – May 16, 1954, Jilava), "a prince of this world who, by a higher calling, became a priest of Jesus Christ". The fifth child of Prince Jean (or Ioan) Ghika and Alexandrine Moret of Blaremberg, Vladimir Ghika was born in Constantinople on December 25, 1873, where his father was at the time ambassador of Romania. Since 1657, ten Ghika princes had reigned in Moldavia or in Wallachia, of whom the last was Vladimir's grandfather, Grigore V; his mother was descendant of King Henry IV de Bourbon of France.

He received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in the Orthodox Church, of which his parents were members. After concluding brilliant studies in Paris, Vladimir was stricken in 1895 with angina pectoris, and he had to give up on a career as a diplomat. In 1898, he joined his brother Demeter, named the Romanian ambassador to Italy. He understood that Christian unity is not possible unless it is under the authority of the Pope, the Successor of Saint Peter. On April 13, 1902, he was officially received into the Catholic Church by Cardinal Mathieu, the Archbishop of Toulouse, who was passing through Rome. However, the Romanian newspapers condemned this step, accusing Prince Ghika of treason. Later, to an Orthodox monk who asked him why he became Catholic, he simply answered, "To be more Orthodox"! In Salonic in 1904, Vladimir met Sister Pucci, an outstanding Sister of Saint Vincent de Paul of Italian birth, who brought him into her apostolate among the sick and dying. Soon, out of his personal wealth, he founded a dispensary in Bucharest, "Bethleem Mariae", run by the "Daughters of Charity", of whom Sister Pucci would be the first superior. In 1913, Prince Ghika, with Sister Pucci, organized "Saint Vincent Hospital", a lazaretto for cholera victims. He had been involved in Romania’s social, political and diplomatic life during World War I, acting for the country’s reunification, as a delegate of the Romanian National Council to Paris, Rome and the Vatican.

After the First World War, Vladimir settled in Paris, where his brother had been named Romanian ambassador. After 1923, when he became a priest, (ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Paris on October 7, 1923), Vladimir Ghika received the privilege of celebrating according to the two rites, Latin and Byzantine. He was sent by the Catholic Church to Sydney, Budapest, Dublin and Buenos-Aires, to attend international Eucharistic congresses. He carried out apostolic missions in Japan, China and Ceylon. He used to carry out blessings with a thorn from Jesus Christ’s crown, and performed a number of miracles, including healing certain people and facilitating the birth of Japan’s crown prince. Pope Pius XI described jokingly as, “the great apostolic vagabond of the 20th century”. In the meantime, he had devoted himself to a new project: living as a missionary in the most deprived Parisian suburb, where the "absence of God" was the most tragic. In 1927, he had found a piece of land in Villejuif, in a shantytown populated by ragpickers. In 1931, Pius XI gave Father Ghika the title of Protonotary Apostolic; the humble priest became, in spite of himself, Monsignor Ghika. He pursued an apostolate which led him as far away as Japan and Argentina, according to the call of Divine Providence. In September 1939, he obtained authorization from the Archbishop of Paris to move to Romania. In Bucharest, throughout the Second World War, he carried out a tireless ministry for the refugees, the sick, the prisoners, the victims of bombings. Unable to remedy all the sufferings, he strove to help others understand that "suffering is, for the Christian, above all a visit from God, a sure visit".

The Soviet army entered Romania in August 1944 and, little by little, a Communist regime was established. Vladimir Ghika was arrested in 1952, and had been accused of spying for the Vatican. Over the course of more than eighty nighttime interrogations, he was slapped, beaten and tortured to the point of temporary loss of hearing and sight. After a shame trial, he was condemned in 1953 to three years of imprisonment. He died in a communist prison in Romania in 1954, following the tortures he had been subjected to by the Securitate. Vladimir Ghika was proposed for beatification by the Bucharest Catholic Diocese and process of beatification is in progress.


Anonymous said...

Are'nt the ghika-s with Albanian deceandant? Because nothing is mentioned here about that...

Adrian said...

As can be seen here, the Ghika family has Albanian origins.