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Saints and Martyrs

Saint Mark (Marko) of Križevci

Marko Stjepan Krizin was born in 1588 in Križevci. He studied philosophy in Graz, where he joined the Congregation of Mary. There he was a student of Petar Pázmány, later on a cardinal and Hungarian primate. Krizin decided to become a priest so he was sent to Rome to stay at the Collegium Germanicum and Hungaricum and study theology as a candidate of the Diocese of Zagreb.

The Collegium’s archive to this day keeps a document where he wrote that he was Croat by nationality. He was studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University from 1611 to 1615 and was sharp and virtuous. Marko was ordained as a priest and after that returned to his Diocese of Zagreb where he performed pastoral work. Shortly after, the Archbishop of Ostrogon and Cardinal Petar Pázmány summoned him to Hungary. As of 1616 he was a teacher and headmaster of the Trnava Seminary and was appointed canon.

He was also the prior of a Benedictine abbey and Szepluku near Košice, which was then owned by the Ostrogon Chapter. Once part of the Archdiocese of Ostrogon, today these territories are territory of the Republic of Slovakia.
At the time Košiće was a fort of Hungarian Calvinism. To help the few Catholics left, who were even deprived of their churches, two Jesuits, a Hungarian Stjepan (Stephen)  Pongrácz and a Pole Melkior (Melchior)  Grodziecki were summoned to look after the faithful who spoke Hungarian and Slovakian.  A Croat, Mark of Križevci worked with them in 1619 as a missionary.

At the time of the rebellion of the Erdelj prince Gabriel (Gabor) Bethlen, on September 3, 1619, a Calvinist commander George (Juraj) Rákóczy came to Košice with his army and imprisoned the three missionaries. As they refused to convert to Calvinism, the three missionaries were tortured. They wanted to force them to abjure their faith and Peter’s successor in Rome but they stayed true to both.

They offered him a church estate if he abjured Catholicism and the Pope in Rome. They were tortured to death. Mark was set on fire by a torch and decapitated on September 7, 1619. The Jesuit Grodziecki was murdered on the same day, and Pongrácz the following day. Prince Bethlen denied the martyrs a decent burial with honors.

He caved in six months later upon request of the palatine’s wife Catherine Pálffy, who agreed to dance with Bethlen at the ceremonial lunch at the palace where the martyrs were tortured, but under the condition that the three Catholic priests were awarded with highest honors. Cardinal Pázmany, the Hungarian primate, investigated the martyrdom, and then on behalf of the entire episcopate of the kingdom asked Pope Urban VIII for the martyrs to be publicly venerated. The coffin with the remains of the three martyrs was transferred to the Ursuline church in Trnava, where the veneration of the martyrs developed.

In 1718, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Mark’s martyrly death, the Jesuit students in Zagreb performed a play Mark of Križevci crowned with a martyrly laurel. The process for the beatification of the three martyrs began in 1859. Holy Pope Pius X beatified them on January 15, 1905.

Aloysius Stepinac, the Archbishop of Zagreb, with the help of Josip Andrić, Ph.D., the editor of the CLS of St. Jerome, and others strongly supported the worship of the Croatian martyrs.  In 1937 the Archbishop dedicated the new parish in Selska Road in Zagreb to the blessed Mark of Križevci.

In Križevci there was no sign of worship of the blessed Mark until the term of the parish priest Vid Cipriš, who got approval that the church of St. Ladislaus in the Upper Town of Križevci gets the blessed Mark of Križevci as co-patron saint.

He also started publishing the parish paper Krizinus, and in 1969 organized a big celebration for the 450th anniversary of the martyrdom of the blessed Mark of Križevci, which was celebrated by Cardinal Franjo (Francis) Šeper, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome. Since then on the Feast of Mark of Križevci, annual pilgrimages to his hometown and his church began.

Pope John Paul II canonized these three martyrs for their faith on July 2, 1995, in Košice. Mark’s canonization was celebrated in his hometown as well.
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