Bishop Bossilkov was one of the Bulgarian Catholic priests killed by the communists in 1950s.
In the early 1950s, the communists who came to power in Bulgaria after the World War II organized at least seven trials against Catholic Church members. About fifty priests and one nun had been prosecuted; six of the clerics were sentenced to death while the others received prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years. The 51-year-old Eugene Bossilkov – a bishop and a member of the Passionist Congregation – received the death penalty.
Eugene Bossilkov’s Early Life and Education
Eugene Bossilkov (birth name Vincent Bossilkov) was born in the village of Belene, Northern Bulgaria, on November 16, 1900. His parents like most Belene residents were Catholics, so Vincent attended the Passionist Congregation School in the nearby village of Oresh and later entered the theological college of the Congregation in Ruse, Bulgaria. At the age of 14, he went abroad and continued his religious studies in Netherlands and Belgium.
Six years later, Vincent Bossilkov took the Habit of Passionist and the religious name Eugene. He continued his education taking Philosophy and Theology courses. In 1924 or 1926, he returned to Bulgaria where he was ordained to the priesthood. Shortly afterwards, Eugene Bossilkov had been sent to Rome to enroll in the Pontifical Oriental Institute and in 1931 he got his PhD. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the Union of Tsar Kaloyan with the Papacy in the early 13th century. Dr Eugene Bossilkov stayed in Italy until 1934.
Bishop Bossilkov’s Priesthood
On his return to Bulgaria Eugene Bossilkov served as a parish priest in various dioceses (a diocese is a territorial unit governed by a bishop). He devoted himself with particular zeal to the laity and apart from his duties of a priest he enjoyed playing football, taking long walks, singing and playing the organ.
In 1947, almost three years after the Communist dictatorship was established in Bulgaria, Dr Eugene Bossilkov was appointed Bishop of Nicopolis. From that year on the Catholic Church in Bulgaria faced various government laws and measures targeted at destroying the religious institutions and values of religion: the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria was deported, Church property was confiscated and religious orders were suppressed. So, Bishop Bossilkov undertook several missions around his diocese to prepare the members of the Congregation for the persecutions by the Communist regime.
The Martyrdom and Beatification of Bishop Eugene Bossilkov
Bishop Bossilkov was arrested on July 16, 1952 on the outskirts of Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria. He was detained in prison where he faced severe pressure and excruciating physical and mental torture to confess to charges of espionage and “Catholic conspiracy aiming to subvert Communism”. A few months later, Bishop Eugene Bossilkov together with forty other priests and ordinary religious people appeared in court.
An eyewitness to the political show trial had remembered: “On a large table there were “proofs” of guilt. There were two pistols, which were taken from the Catholic college in Sofia, where they were conserved as museum artifacts. Also there was an old radio transmitter that, according to the judges, was used to transmit coded messages to foreign sources. Bosillkov was presented as the“chief” of an subversive Catholic spy organization.”
Eugene (Vincent) Bossilkov was sentenced to death and was executed by firing squad on November 11, 1952.His body was thrown into a pit and the exact location of his burial place is still unknown. In 1998, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Bishop Bossilkov Blessed. His feast day is November 13.