Gorazd (Pavlik) of Prague
Our father among the saints Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik) of Prague was the hierarch of the revived Orthodox Church in Moravia, the Church of Czechoslovakia during World War II. Having provided refuge for the assassins of SS-Obergruppenfuher Reinhard Heydrich, called The Butcher of Prague, in the cathedral of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Prague, he took full responsibility for protecting the patriots after the Nazi overlords found them in the crypt of the cathedral. This act guaranteed his execution, martyrdom, during the reprisals that followed.
Matthias Pavlik was born on May 26, 1879 in the Moravian town of Hrubavrbka in what would later be the Czech Republic. Born into a Roman Catholic society of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Matthais continued into the Roman Catholic theological faculty in Olomouc after finishing his earlier education. He was subsequently ordained a priest. During his studies he was interested in the mission of SS Cyril and Methodius and of Orthodox Christianity. With the end of World War I and the establishment of the new country Czechoslovakia the legal constraints forcing Roman Catholicism were broken. In this environment many people left the Roman church, and many looked to Orthodox Christianity. Fr. Pavlik was among them. The Serbian Orthodox Church provided a shelter for those looking to Orthodoxy. As a leader in Moravia, Fr. Pavlik the Church of Serbia agreed to consecrate him to the episcopate for his home land. On September 24, 1921, was consecrated bishop with the name of Gorazd.
Historically, his monastic name of Gorazd was significant as it was the name of the bishop who succeeded St Methodius as Bishop of Moravia after he died in 885. Subsequently, Pope Stephen V drove the disciples of St. Methodius from Moravia as the latin rite was imposed. Thus, by the choice of his monastic name of Gorazd the continuity of the Orthodox Church in Moravia from some eleven hundred years before was recognized.
Archimandrite Gorazd was named Bishop of Moravia and Silesia on September 24, 1921 and consecrated bishop on the next day at the Cathedral of the Holy Archangel in Belgrade, Yugoslavia by Patriarch Dimitri.
Over the next decade or so, Bp. Gorazd and his faithful followers organized parishes and built churches in Bohemia. In all they built eleven churches and two chapels. He had the essential service books translated and published into the Czech language, which was the language used in the church services. With Subcarpatho-Russia and Slovakia part of Czechoslovakia, he assisted many who had returned to their ancestral Orthodox Faith.
With the conquest of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis in 1938, the church was placed under the Orthodox Metropolitan in Berlin, Germany. Assigned as ruler of Czechoslovakia was Reinhard Heydrich, who was reputed to be designated successor to Adolf Hitler. On May 27, 1942, a group of Czech resistance fighters attacked and killed Heydrick as his car slowed down on a curve near the Cathedral of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Prague. In making their escape the group found refuge in the crypt of the Cathedral. When Bp. Gorazd found out a few days later, he recognized the serious position this placed on the Czech Orthodox Church and before he left for the consecration to the episcopate of Fr. John (Gardner) in Berlin he asked that the resistance fighters move else where as soon as possible. However, on June 18, the Nazis found out the hiding places, after a betrayal by two members of the resistance group and the all members of the group were killed.
Reprisals came quickly. The two priests and the senior lay church officials were arrested. Bp. Gorazd, wishing to help his fellow believers and the Czech Church itself, took blame for the actions in the Cathedral on himself, even writing letters to the Nazi authorities. But, on June 27, 1942 he was arrested and tortured. On September 4, 1942, Bp. Gorazd, the Cathedral priests and senior lay leaders were executed by firing squad.
The reprisals went further, much further as the Nazis conducted widespread roundups of Czechs, including the whole village of Lidice, then summarily killing the men and placing the survivors in forced labor camps. The Orthodox churches in Moravia and Bohemia were closed and the Church forbidden to operate. Metropolitan Seraphim courageously refused to issue any statement condemning Bp. Gorazd. It wasn’t until the end of the war before the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia would function again.
By these actions by the Orthodox Faithful, who led by their bishop, proved the qualities of their little church in bravery and devotion to matters of justice and showed how firmly it was connected to the Czech nation. On May 4, 1961, the Serbian Orthodox Church recognized Bp. Gorazd as a new martyr, and on August 24, 1987 he was glorified in the Cathedral of St. Gorazd in Olomouc in Moravia. His feast day is on August 22.