Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave, James Hemings, Introduced French Cuisine to America.
My friend Paul Kengor is the author of the recently released The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, published by Regnery. He’s a professor of political science at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and as an academic he gets more than his fair share of exposure to students and faculty. Over the years he’s observed a few things: while most students he encounters are well-informed about the horrors of Nazism, they know virtually nothing about the horrors of Communism. Many regard it as a good form of government. Paul has a hunch these starry-eyed optimists may have picked up this misguided notion from progressive professors who consider Communism benign.
So, let’s do the numbers: In Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the Soviets murdered more than 21 million people.
Now, one of their victims is moving toward sainthood. Giovanni Fausti, S.J., (1899-1946) was an Italian philosopher, seminary rector and peacemaker assigned by his superior to work in Albania in 1942, during World War II.
At the time, Albania was arguably the poorest country in Europe, and suffered no end of political and social strife. Especially acute was the centuries-old animosity that existed between Muslims, who comprised about 60 percent of the population, and Orthodox Christians and Catholics, who together barely made up 16 percent of the population. Father Fausti had long had a fascination with Islam and studied it in-depth. He used his expertise to try to reduce enmity between Muslims and Catholics. At the same time he was trying to alleviate the misery of the Albanian people as the war dragged on.
His troubles became much worse in 1943 when the Nazis invaded Albania and occupied the country. Food shortages, which had been bad before, now became much worse. Anyone the Nazis considered an enemy was executed or shipped off to a concentration camp. It was not unusual for Nazi soldiers to fire on civilians. Father Fausti was one of those wounded—he took a bullet to one of his lungs.
In 1945, with the end of World War II, the Nazis left, but then Communist insurgents moved in and took over the country. They rounded up officials from Albania’s previous governments — along with intellectuals, clan chiefs, religious leaders and landlords — and shot them. The families of these victims were arrested, imprisoned for years, then sent to labor camps.
In December 1945 Father Fausti was the superior of the Jesuits in Albania, and his colleague, Father Daniel Dajani, was rector of the seminary. Both men were arrested on New Year’s Eve, 1945, and charged with war crimes and spying for the British and the Americans. The two Jesuits received a typical Communist show trial, then were sentenced to execution by firing squad.
On March 4, 1946, Fathers Fausti and Dajani, along with six other priests, were taken from their prison cells and transported to a cemetery in the city Shkoder, where they were shot.
In 2016, Pope Francis declared Giovanni Fausti “Blessed.” The beatification ceremony took place at the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Shkoder, the city of Blessed Giovanni’s martyrdom. He was beatified with 38 other victims of Albania’s Soviet-backed Communist regime.
In his sermon at the beatification, Cardinal Amato, who celebrated the Mass, said something both memorable and poetic: “While the persecutors dissolve like so many black shadows which are lost forever in the darkness of eternal oblivion, martyrs are guiding lights that shine in the sky of humanity, showing the true face of man’s goodness, his profound identity created in the image of God.”
The black shadows of Communism in Eastern Europe have dissolved, thank God, while the martyrs shine for eternity in glory.