(ANS - Vatican City - February 27) - On February 27, in an audience granted to Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, Pope Francis authorized that Congregation to promulgate decrees confirming the martyrdom of the Servant of God Fr. Titus Zeman, SDB (1915-1969), and the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Ottavio Ortiz Arrieta, SDB, bishop of Chachapoyas, Peru (1878-1958).
Fr. Titus Zeman
The inquiry for the beatification and canonization of Titus Zeman started only in 2007. The diocesan inquiry was held in the archdiocese of Bratislava from February 26, 2010, to December 7, 2012. The validity of the diocesan inquiry was recognized by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes on June 28, 2013. When the positio was prepared, the discussion took place, according to the usual procedure, whether the death of the Servant of God was a true martyrdom. The result was positive, and a special meeting CSC’s theological consultors took place on April 7, 2016. At the ordinary session of February 21, 2017, the cardinal and bishop members of CSC recognized that the Servant of God was killed for his faithfulness to Christ.
Fr. Zeman was born in Vajnory, Slovakia, on January 4, 1915, the son of peasant farmers who were also the sacristans of their parish church. He suffered various illnesses from early childhood. After a sudden recovery at the age of 10, he promised Mary to “be her son forever” and to become a Salesian priest.
He became a novice in 1931, made his perpetual profession in 1938, and was ordained in 1940. He remained steadfast against the Communist regime. In 1946 he was dismissed from the school where he taught because he defended the crucifix. He managed to escape the “Night of the Barbarians” and the deportation of religious (April 13-14, 1950). He then looked for ways to help Salesian seminarians reach the priesthood. He organized expeditions to pass them through the Iron Curtain to Turin, but on his third venture (April 1951) he was caught.
Fr. Zeman had to face about 13 years of wrongful imprisonment and torture, experiencing hardship in prison and labor camps. He was forced to endure long periods of isolation and to work with radioactive uranium without any protection. He was branded as a “man marked for elimination.” In 1964 he was given five years on parole but was constantly spied on and persecuted. He was forbidden to exercise the priestly ministry publicly. He died in his home town on January 8, 1969, after a triple heart attack, a martyr for vocations.
Already at the time of his death he was regarded as a martyr. In 1991, following the fall the Communist government, a review of his case declared him innocent.
The witness of Fr. Zeman is the embodiment of the vocational call of Jesus and of a pastoral predilection for the young, especially for young Salesians, which became for him a true passion. He once said, “Even if I lost my life, I would not consider it wasted, knowing that at least one of those I had helped had become a priest in my place.”
Bishop Ottavio Ortiz Arrieta
In the cause of Ottavio Ortiz Arrieta, the diocesan inquiry took place in the Chachapoyas diocese from July 8, 1992, to December 22, 2001. It was recognized as valid by the CSC on October 3, 2003. When the positio was prepared, the discussion took place according to the usual procedure, whether the Servant of God had exercised the virtues to a heroic degree. The result was positive, and on February 19, 2015, a special meeting of the theological consultors was held. The cardinals and bishops in the ordinary session of February 7, 2017, recognized that the Servant of God practised the theological, cardinal, and other related virtues to a heroic degree.
Bishop Ortiz, the first Peruvian Salesian, was born in Lima, Peru, on April 19, 1878, and died in Chachapoyas, Peru, on March 1, 1958. He was bishop of Chachapoyas for 37 years.
In December 1893 Octavio entered the Salesian school for the poorest as a carpentry pupil, and was later admitted to the academic school. He did his novitiate in Callao, and in 1902 he pronounced his perpetual vows before Fr. Paul Albera, who was carrying out an extensive extraordinary visit of all the houses of the Americas on behalf of the Rector Major, Fr. Michael Rua. In 1906 Bro. Octavio was sent to found a new vocational school in Piura. He was ordained on January 27, 1907, and later he was director in the houses of Cuzco and Callao.
On November 21, 1921, Fr. Ortiz was appointed bishop of the far away diocese of Chachapoyas (in the northern parts of the Andes). The see, comprising a territory of 37,000 square miles, a little larger than Indiana, with a population of 250,000, had been vacant for five years. He was ordained a bishop in the shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Lima on June 11, 1922, but he reached his episcopal see only after a month’s journey. His life was spent in continuous travelling: by horseback and on foot, in the mountains and the jungle and along the rivers. He was amiable, welcoming, cheerful, and close to the people.
A born organizer, Bishop Ortiz planned missions and spiritual retreats for lay people and priests in all the centers of his diocese. Catechesis, preaching, care for priests and seminarians, and the promotion of vocations were the constant concerns of his 37 years as a bishop. He taught catechism whenever he could, and young people filled the rooms of his old episcopal house. He did eight pastoral visitations, celebrated three diocesan synods and a Eucharistic Congress. He put parish archives in order, created associations and confraternities, and published a newspaper.
When the archdiocese of Lima became vacant, the apostolic nuncio, on behalf of the Pope, offered it to him. Bishop Ortiz thanked him but declined the proposal; he wanted to stay among the people of his pueblos unto death, which claimed him at the age of 75.
[Ed. note: The decree that Fr. Zeman was martyred for the Faith means that he can be beatified as soon as a date can be set and the rite of beatification arranged. The decree that Bishop Ortiz is Venerable means that if a miracle will be attributed to his heavenly intercession, and confirmed as such by the CSC, he can be beatified.]