Vladimir Ghika was born in Constantinople in 1873. He comes from a princely dynasty that reigned over Moldavia and Wallachia, the two principalities that formed Romania, before the latter was recognized in 1866 as a state by the Empire. Ottoman. His father, Prince Ioan Ghica worked for the Empire as a Romanian ambassador, Romania remaining at that time still dependent on the Ottomans – it would not be erected into the Kingdom of Romania until 1881. Also, the young Vladimir Ghika lived a childhood marked by the dislocation of empires and the Russian-Turkish conflict, before experiencing, like his contemporaries, the violence of the two world wars.
The forerunner of ecumenism in the Church
Although raised in the Orthodox faith, he converted to Catholicism in 1902. At the age of 30, he pursued studies in theology. Vladimir Ghika is convinced that a unity between Christians exists, a unity which could be brought about by the recognition of the primacy of the pope. This precursor of ecumenism was ordained a priest in 1923. He was then fifty years old and worked in the diocese of Paris, rue de Sèvres, in the parish of Foreigners, now Saint-Ignace.
Alongside the big ones as well as the little ones
A simple and generous personality, Mgr Vladimir Ghika rubbed shoulders with intellectuals and ragpickers alike. He is close to the philosopher Jacques Maritain, the poet Francis Jammes, but also to Pope Pius X who will commission him to act for the unity of the Church in the West and in the East. During the interwar period, he mobilized on all charitable fronts: with the poor in a shanty town of Villejuif, in Japan, by participating in several international Eucharistic Congresses such as those in Sydney, Carthage, Buenos Aires… At the dawn of the Second World War, he obtained permission to return to his native country. For several years in Bucharest, he took care of Poles fleeing the Nazi occupation.
A martyr’s destiny
At the end of the Second World War, he saw the installation of communism. Still in Romania and faithful to his big heart, he helps the victims of the regime. But, after sending the Vatican documents revealing the extent of the persecution of the Greek Catholic Church, he was arrested. Thrown into prison in 1952, he continued to exercise his faith, despite the multiple episodes of torture and humiliation he suffered and which led to his death on May 16, 1954. His courage and kindness made him a respected figure. Catholics and Orthodox, in France as in Romania where he was beatified in 2013.