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Oct 2 Mindzenty of Hungary


Today in 1945 we travel to Hungary where Josef Mindzentsy was appointed Archbishop and leader of the Catholic Church - a position with which he would hold for a tumultuous thirty years, bravely opposing both fascism and then communism in his country at some personal cost. During World War II, he was imprisoned by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party. After the war, he opposed communism and was tortured and given a life sentence in a show trial that generated worldwide condemnation, including a United Nations resolution. He would eventually die in exile in 1975 in Vienna, Austria.



In 1939, he urged Hungarians to vote against the Arrow Cross Party and published a pamphlet, "The Green Communism", in which he characterised the Hungarian Nazi, who had a green uniform, as a diabolic movement, as evil as the communists. He organised a letter to the Nazi authorities urging them not to fight in Western Hungary and protested to the president in favour of converted Jews. With the help of Cardinal Roncalli who would later become Pope John XXIII, operation baptism was implemented in Hungary to get many Jews out of danger (pod of Aug 16) As tensions grew because of his outspoken criticism of the Nazis he was effectively put under house arrested on for his opposition to the Arrow Cross government's plan to quarter soldiers in parts of his official palace. In April 1945, with the collapse of the Arrow Cross's power, Mindszenty was released from house arrest at a church in Sopron and within a year was made a Cardinal, AT the consistory in Rome which elevated 31 other bishops to be Cardinal Pius XII, who reportedly told him, "Among these thirty-two you will be the first to suffer the martyrdom symbolized by this red colour."

He was dismissed by the communists as the archetypal figure of "clerical reaction" with the Party accusing him of having "aristocratic attitudes" and attacked his demands for compensation following the State seizure of Church-owned farmlands during the Party's campaign to abolish private farm ownership. Since the main source of income for the Church was their agricultural lands, confiscations by the communist government left many Church-run institutions destitute. He bravely and stubbornly insisted that "The Church asks for no secular protection; it seeks shelter under the protection of God alone". After the communists seized parochial schools he was arrested the day after Christmas and accused of treason, conspiracy, and other offences against the new Hungarian People's Republic. Shortly before his arrest, he wrote a note to the effect that he had not been involved in any conspiracy, and any confession he might make would be the result of duress. While he was imprisoned, Mindszenty was repeatedly hit with rubber truncheons and tortured to elicit a forced confession. He supposedly admitted to planning a third World War, and, that once this war had been won by the Americans, he would assume supreme political power himself. Both seen as ridiculous and farcical by the wider world.


After his show trial Pope Pius XII announced the excommunication of all persons involved in the trial and conviction of Mindszenty. In a subsequent apostolic letter, the Pope publicly condemned the Cardinal's conviction and described his tortures, 10 years later during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Mindszenty was released from prison and returned to Budapest the next day where he made a radio broadcast in favour of recent anti-communist developments. When the Soviet Union invaded Hungary on 4 November 1956 to restore the communist government, Cardinal Mindszenty was granted political asylum at the United States embassy in Budapest and lived there for the next 15 years, unable to leave the grounds, and did not participate in the conclaves of 1958 and 1963. Eventually, Pope Paul VI offered a compromise: declaring Mindszenty a "victim of history" (instead of communism) and annulling the excommunication imposed on his political opponents. The Hungarian government allowed Mindszenty to leave the country in 1971. He refused to go to Rome and lived in Vienna, Austria, as he took offence at Rome's advice that he should resign from the primacy of the Catholic Church in Hungary in exchange for uncensored publication of his memoirs backed by the Holy See. Two years later at the age of 81, he was stripped of his titles by the Pope, who declared the Archdiocese of Esztergom officially vacated, but he refused to fill the seat while Mindszenty was still alive. After he died in 1975, the Pope made Bishop László Lékai the primate of Hungary, ending a long struggle with the communist government