József Mindszenty [jo:ʒɛf mindsɛnti] (29 March 1892 – 6 May 1975) was the Prince Primate, Archbishop of Esztergom, cardinal, and leader of the Catholic Church in Hungary from 2 October 1945 to 18 December 1973. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, for five decades "he personified uncompromising opposition to fascism and communism in Hungary". During World War II, he was imprisoned by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party. After the war, he opposed communism and the communist persecution in his country. As a result, he was tortured and given a life sentence in a 1949 show trial that generated worldwide condemnation, including a United Nations resolution. After eight years in prison, he was freed in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and granted political asylum by the United States embassy in Budapest. Mindszenty lived there for the next fifteen years. He was finally allowed to leave the country in 1971. He died in exile in 1975 in Vienna, Austria.
|Cardinal, Archbishop emeritus of Esztergom,|
Prince Primate of Hungary
|Archdiocese||Archdiocese of Esztergom|
|Metropolis||Archdiocese of Esztergom|
|See||Archdiocese of Esztergom|
|Appointed||2 October 1945|
|Term ended||19 December 1973|
|Predecessor||Jusztinián György Serédi|
|Other post(s)||Cardinal-Priest of Santo Stefano al Monte Celio (1946–74)|
|Ordination||12 June 1915|
by János Mikes
|Consecration||25 March 1944|
by Jusztinián György Serédi
|Created cardinal||18 February 1946|
by Pope Pius XII
|Birth name||József Pehm|
|Born||29 March 1892|
|Died||6 May 1975 (aged 83)|
|Denomination||Catholic (Roman Rite)|
|Coat of arms|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Title as Saint||Venerable|
|Reference style||His Eminence|
|Spoken style||Your Eminence|
Ordination history of
Early life and careerEdit
Mindszenty was born on 29 March 1892 in Csehimindszent, Vas County, Austria-Hungary, to József Pehm and Borbála Kovács. His father was a magistrate. He attended St Norbert's Premonstratensian High Grammar School in Szombathely, before entering the Szombathely Diocesan Seminary in 1911.
Mindszenty was ordained a priest by Bishop János Mikes on 12 June 1915, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1917, the first of his books, Motherhood, was published. He was arrested by the republican Mihály Károlyi government on 9 February 1919 for speaking out against its 'socialist policies' and then rearrested by the communist Béla Kun government on 31 July.
In 1939, he urged his followers to vote against the Arrow Cross Party. In 1940, he published a pamphlet, "The Green Communism", in which he characterised the Hungarian Nyilas Nazi Movement as a diabolic movement, as evil as the communists. Green was the colour of the Nyilas uniform. (Paksy, 213–215. p).
In 1941, during a Magyarization campaign amongst Germans living in Hungary, he adopted his new Hungarian name of Mindszenty, part of his home village's name. On 25 March 1944, he was consecrated as bishop of Veszprém. He organised a letter to the Nazi authorities urging them not to fight in Western Hungary; he also protested to Miklós Horthy in favour of converted Jews. He was arrested on 27 November 1944 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.
Church leader and opposition to communismEdit
On 15 September 1945, he was appointed Primate of Hungary and Archbishop of Esztergom (the seat of the head of the Catholic Church in Hungary). On 21 February 1946, Archbishop Mindszenty was elevated to Cardinal-Priest of Santo Stefano Rotondo by Pope Pius XII, who reportedly told him, "Among these thirty-two you will be the first to suffer the martyrdom symbolized by this red color."
To the ruling Hungarian Working People's Party, Mindszenty was regarded as the archetypal figure of "clerical reaction". He continued to use the traditional title of prince-primate (hercegprímás) even after the use of noble and royal titles was outlawed by the 1946 puppet parliament. He was contacting the US embassy asking them to "engage in activities which were simply not diplomatically proper or politically feasible", and about which he was rebuked by the embassy. Apart from such contacts, the Party accused 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.[verification needed] Since the main source of income for the Church was their agricultural lands, confiscations by the communist government left many Church-run institutions destitute.[better source needed]
Cardinal Mindszenty believed and preached that "The Church asks for no secular protection; it seeks shelter under the protection of God alone". For this reason, he fought fiercely against the state policy to emancipate the Hungarian educational system from Church control by seizing parochial schools.
In 1948, religious orders were banned by the government. Soon after, Hungarian Premier Mátyás Rákosi accused both the Cardinal and the Catholic Church of being both "a reactionary force in our country, supporting the monarchy and later the Fascist dictatorship of Admiral Horthy" and "the largest landowner in Hungary". This, according to Rakosi, was the only reason for Cardinal Mindszenty's opposition to the Party's policy of land confiscation.
On 26 December 1948, Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested 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 subjected to other forms of abuse until he agreed to confess.[better source needed]
Mindszenty's forced confession included these elements: orchestrating the theft of the Crown of Saint Stephen for the sole purpose of crowning Crown Prince Otto von Habsburg as King of Hungary, scheming to overthrow the Party and reestablish Capitalism, planning a third World War, and, once this war had been won by the Americans, assuming supreme political power himself.
Almost alone among the Western news media, reporter George Seldes, who had previously been expelled from the Soviet Union and fascist Italy for his reporting, believed the allegations. Seldes spent the remainder of his life accusing Mindszenty of being a Nazi collaborator, a Holocaust perpetrator, and a virulent anti-Semite. In his 1987 memoirs, Seldes wrote, "In 1948 the entire American section of the resident foreign press corps in Hungary implored me to report the facts about Cardinal Mindszenty's collaboration with the Nazis, his part in the deportation of the Jewish population to Hitler's death camps, and also to expose the scores of fraudulent news items coming from outside Hungary, from Vienna, London, Prague, and Rome especially, alleging drugging and torturing of the Cardinal."
On 3 February 1949, Mindzenty's show trial began. The Cardinal admitted to being involved in a Habsburg restorationist organization which planned to form a government after an American invasion, however he denied hoping for the outbreak of war. He said "we prayed for peace". He accepted the charges of smuggling tens of thousands of dollars into Hungary, and admitted his contacts with Otto von Habsburg and American politicians, but did not admit to willful espionage on behalf of foreign powers. In court he stated about the charges: "I do not deny one or another part of it, but I do not subscribe to the conclusion". As he followed the trial, a weeping Pope Pius XII told Sister Pascalina Lehnert, "My words have come true and all I can do is pray; I cannot help him any other way." On 8 February, Mindszenty was sentenced to life imprisonment for black-marketeering, treason and espionage. The government released a White Book Documents on the Mindszenty Case containing his confessions and case materials.
On 12 February 1949, Pope Pius XII announced the excommunication of all persons involved in the trial and conviction of Mindszenty. On 20 February 1949, the Pope addressed a series of questions to a crowd which had gathered in St. Peter's Square to protest the Cardinal's show trial and conviction. He asked, "Do you want a Church that remains silent when She should speak; that diminishes the law of God where she is called to proclaim it loudly, wanting to accommodate it to the will of man? Do you want a Church that departs from the unshakable foundations upon which Christ founded Her, taking the easy way of adapting Herself to the opinion of the day; a Church that is a prey to current trends; a Church that does not condemn the suppression of conscience and does not stand up for the just liberty of the people; a Church that locks Herself up within the four walls of Her temple in unseemly sycophancy, forgetting the divine mission received from Christ: 'Go out the crossroads and preach the people'? Beloved sons and daughters! Spiritual heirs of numberless confessors and martyrs! Is this the Church you venerate and love? Would you recognize in such a Church the features of your Mother? Would you be able to imagine a Successor of St. Peter submitting to such demands?" According to Sister Pascalina, who witnessed the rally, "In reply to the Holy Father came a single cry like thunder still ringing in our ears: 'No!'"
On 30 October 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Mindszenty was released from prison. He returned to Budapest the next day. On 2 November, he praised the insurgents. The following day, he made a radio broadcast in favour of recent anti-communist developments.
Confinement at the US embassyEdit
When the Soviet Union invaded Hungary on 4 November 1956 to restore the communist government, Cardinal Mindszenty sought Imre Nagy's advice, and was granted political asylum at the United States embassy in Budapest. Mindszenty lived there for the next 15 years, unable to leave the grounds, and did not participate in the conclaves of 1958 and 1963.
György Aczél, the communist official in charge of all cultural and religious matters in Hungary, felt increasingly uncomfortable about the situation in the late 1960s when Mindszenty fell seriously ill and rumors spread of his impending death. Yet Aczél failed to convince party leader János Kádár that freeing Mindszenty would create valuable confusion in the Holy See and allow the state to better control the remaining clergy.
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 on 28 September 1971. Beginning on 23 October 1971, he 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. Although most bishops retire at or near age 75, Mindszenty continually denied rumors of his resignation, and he was not canonically required to step down at the time.
In December 1973, at the age of 81, Mindszenty 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. He visited the Hungarian emigrants in 1975 in Caracas, Venezuela, and after that Bogotá, Colombia. Just after this visit, he traveled back to Europe feeling quite ill. Mindszenty died on 6 May 1975, at the age of 83, in exile in Vienna. In early 1976, the Pope made Bishop László Lékai the primate of Hungary, ending a long struggle with the communist government.
The Mindszenty Museum in Esztergom is dedicated to the life of the Cardinal. A commemorative statue of Cardinal Mindszenty stands at St. Ladislaus Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, US. A monument was donated by the Hungarian community of Greater Cleveland in 1977 and stands at Cardinal Mindszenty Plaza in Downtown Cleveland. He is remembered in Chile, with a memorial in the same park (Parque Bustamante) in which a monument to the martyrs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution stands.
In June 1974, Cardinal Mindszenty visited the Woodside Priory School in Portola Valley, California. Woodside Priory was founded by seven Hungarian Benedictine monks, associated with Saint Martin's Archabbey in Panonhalma, who fled the repression following the revolution. A bronze memorial has been placed on the school's campus noting his visit. The Cardinal's visit to the San Francisco Bay Area included Mass in December 1974 at St Raymond Church in Menlo Park, California. Commemorating the Mass by Cardinal Mindszenty, a monument was placed on the parish grounds.
His beatification and eventual canonization has been on the agenda of the Hungarian Catholic Church ever since communism fell in 1989, and the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI was seen by many analysts as an excellent opportunity, as the Pope had commented favourably on Mindszenty's calling and legacy.
The cause for the cardinal's beatification opened on 15 June 1993; he became titled as a Servant of God after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints assented to introducing the cause in a decree "nihil obstat" (meaning no objections/impediments). The diocesan process (collecting his spiritual writings and collecting witness interrogatories to attest to his reputation for holiness) opened in Esztergom on 19 March 1994 and later closed on 17 October 1996; the C.C.S. validated the process (as having complied with their regulations) in Rome on 8 November 1999. In 2012 the Hungarian Bishops' Conference reaffirmed their support for continuing the late cardinal's cause for beatification. Theologians voiced their approval for the cause on 14 June 2018.
In popular cultureEdit
Mindszenty's life and battle against the Soviet domination of Hungary and communism were the subject of the 1950 film Guilty of Treason, which was, in part, based on his personal papers, and starred Charles Bickford as the cardinal.
He was reported as disliking the fictional version of his situation.
The two-part 1966 episode, "Old Man Out" of television's Mission: Impossible was loosely based on Mindszenty. The episode's premise was that a Catholic cardinal, a political prisoner and hero to his people, was slated for execution in an Eastern European prison. The series' protagonists were tasked with smuggling him out of the prison and country before he was executed.
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