Venerable Bessarion Sarai the Confessor in Romania

Saint Bessarion (Sarai) was a Serb who was born in Bosnia in 1714. Longing for the monastic life, he was tonsured at the Monastery of St Sava in the Holy Land in 1738. He returned to Serbia and lived in a cave for several years as a hesychast, and received from God the grace of working miracles.

About this time there was a great deal of unrest in the regions of the Banat and Transylvania because many Romanian Orthodox Christians had been forced into union with Rome. At Karlovits, Patriarch Arsenius had heard of St Bessarion’s holy and ascetical life, and asked to see him. After ordaining him to the holy priesthood, he sent him to defend the Orthodox Faith northwest of the Carpathian Mountains.

St Bessarion left for the Banat in January of 1774, and was warmly received by the local people. Hundreds of people came to hear him preach, and many of them returned to the Orthodox Church. He encouraged his listeners not to abandon the faith which their fathers had passed down to them, but to remain firm and steadfast in it.

Preaching at Timishoara, Lipova-Arad, Deva, Orashtie, Salishtea of Sibiu, and other places, he would set up a wooden cross in the middle of each village, and people would gather to hear him. In each place, he was able to bring most of the people back into the fold of the Orthodox Church. This, of course, did not please the Roman Catholic authorities.

On April 26, 1744, St Bessarion was arrested by the Austrian army while on his way to Sibiu. They took him to Vienna, where he was placed on trial, and then thrown into the Kufstein prison on the orders of Empress Maria Teresa. There he endured much suffering because of his confession of the Orthodox Faith. After about a year in chains and tortures, he surrendered his soul to God.

St Bessarion the Confessor was glorified by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1950, and the date of his annual commemoration was designated as October 21.