Biography of Bishop Alexander Frison

Born May 5, 1875, in Baden, Kutschurgan district, Odessa province. Studied at Saratov Theological Seminary and later graduated from the Germanicum, Gregorian University, in Rome with a doctorate in philosophy. He returned to Russia and on November 22, 1922, was ordained by Bishop Edward von Ropp in Baden and on the following day said his first Mass. From 1922 he was pastor of Holy Virgin Mary parish in Kerch; later he served in Simferopol; from January 1905 he was a vicar at St. Klemens Cathedral in Saratov; from July 1905, he was the bishop’s chaplain and from August 1905, secretary of the diocesan curia. In 1904, having defended his dissertation, he became a doctor of theology; from 1905, he was a professor at Saratov Theological Seminary where he taught Latin and church history while also fulfilling the duties of rector; he became rector in 1910, and when the seminary was moved to Odessa in 1917, he continued there as rector. From 1919 he was pastor of Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish in Simferopol and also looked after the parish in Kerch; later became dean of Simferopol deanery. In 1923 he was under investigation and spent six months in prison. In 1925 he was again on trial, but released on appeal and his case was closed. In 1926, Bishop Michel D’Herbigny, a clandestine Papal emissary to the USSR, appointed him Apostolic Administrator of the southern part of Tiraspol Diocese, which included Crimea, Odessa, Nikolayev, Kherson, Rostov-on-Don, Taganrog and the adjacent German colonies. May 10, 1926 – secretly consecrated bishop at St. Louis des Français Church in Moscow. Bishop Neveu – through Bishop D’Herbigny, the Papal Nuncio in Berlin, and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs – tried to get Bishop Alexander quasi-diplomatic status in Odessa, but this effort was unsuccessful. May 1, 1927 – GPU agents came to his apartment and officially forbade him to travel from Simferopol to Odessa. August 1, 1929 – arrested in Simferopol, but released from prison a month later. At the end of 1929 he was again arrested, on charges of his “illegal consecration as bishop and also for having aided the White Army.” He spent a year in prison and was not released until the end of 1930. He continued to serve at the Simferopol parish, serving also the faithful in the outlying villages – Akadzha, Alatay, Bulganak, Dzhamin, Dzhaichi, Dortkul, Dulat, Karamin, Aleksandrovna and sometimes Tsarekvichi. The faithful from other parishes turned to him after the arrest of many parish priests. From 1932 he would go to Kerch for services and to get what he needed, and he would stay with his niece, Katharine Braksmeer. In 1933 he was again arrested, charged with “illegally allowing underage children into liturgical services”; released on his own recognizance an hour later [but the matter was set for trial]. In July 1933 Bishop Alexander explained in a letter to Bishop Neveu how all this had happened: “In November a mother brought her little boy to the church and asked me to allow him to serve at the altar. I sent him to the catafalque to look after the candles. This was the only time that he came to the church.” The investigation indicted him on a charge under the article that stated “Teaching of religion in schools and educational institutions is punishable by forced labor for up to one year,” and when the Bishop objected, the investigator asserted that there was no other appropriate statute to cover the given situation. The trial was postponed several times, and the case was later closed. October 15, 1935 – arrested in Simferopol in a case against Catholic clergy and laity (Frison et al.). Charged with “espionage on behalf of the Germans”; the basis for the charge was the discovery during the search of his premises of dollars which, in the NKVD’s version, were “the reward for his espionage.” He was held in the basement of Simferopol Prison. June 19, 1936 – presented with the indictment, which stated that “he had hidden in the church rosaries, crosses, little images, holy cards, leaflets with explanations for praying the rosary, and litanies printed in Roman script” and also a brochure entitled “Rosary of the Most Holy Mother of God,” in which the investigators saw in the words “in hellish swarms” an allusion to Soviet power. September 11-17, 1936 – a closed trial was held, at which Bishop Alexander was sentenced to death under Articles 58-4 and 58-11 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR [Special Collegium, Supreme Ct., Crimean ASSR]. April 15, 1937 – sentence affirmed in Moscow [Special Collegium, Supreme Ct., RSFSR]. June 20, 1937 – shot. On April 17, 1937, Bishop Frison conveyed several requests to the Special Collegium of the Supreme Court of the RSFSR through the investigator: That he be allowed to meet with his niece, Magdalina Frison, also convicted, now being held in Simferopol Prison That his books be returned to him – prayerbooks and a Bible – which were taken from him and were now either in the prison office or library That he be allowed to make his confession to Father Matvey Gudaitis, also in prison and under sentence. “I hope that the Special Collegium of the Supreme Court will not object to my request, since the new Constitution guarantees religious rites. I cannot ask another priest, since there is no Roman Catholic priest in Crimea other than Fr. Gudaitis. I ask that my request be granted promptly so that I might fulfill this religious rite while Fr. Gudaitis is close by.” Sources: Archive of the Directorate of Office of Information, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ukraine; Osipova (1996), p. 207; Parafiial’na gazeta (1995), No. 49, p. 8; letter from V. Simonov, Ufa (Archive of Fr. Bronislav Chaplitskii); letter from Fr. Frison to Bishop Neveu, July 1933 (Archive of Fr. Antoine Wenger); Investigatory Matter 95215, Central Archive, Russian Federation; Sokolovskyi, pp. 215-217; Dzwonkowski (1998), pp. 235-236
Variant Names:
Frison, Alexander; Frizon, Aleksandr Ivanovich
Baden, Odessa (Ukraine); Saratov (Russia); Rome (Italy); Kerch (Ukraine); Simferopolʹ (Ukraine); Odesa (Ukraine); Tiraspol (Moldova); Moscow (Russia); Crimea (Ukraine)
male; clergy and religious; executed