Joseph Mindszenty

Joseph Mindszenty

Joseph Mindszenty was born in Hungary in 1892. He became a priest when he was twenty-three and eventually became Archbishop of Esztergom.

Mindszenty bravely opposed the German Nazis and the Hungarian Fascists during the Second World War. In 1946 he became a cardinal. He opposed the government of Matyas Rakosi and in December, 1948, was accused of treason. After five weeks of torture he confessed to the charges made against him and he was condemned to life imprisonment. The Protest churches were also purged and their leaders were replaced by those willing to remain loyal to Rakosi's government.

When Imre Nagy gained control of the government he ordered the release of Mindszenty. On 31st October, 1956 Nagy announced: "the measures depriving Cardinal Primate Jozsef Mindszenty of his rights are invalid and that the Cardinal is free to exercise without restriction all his civil and ecclesiastical rights."

The Hungarian Uprising began on 23rd October by a peaceful manifestation of students in Budapest. The students demanded an end to Soviet occupation and the implementation of "true socialism". The following day commissioned officers and soldiers joined the students on the streets of Budapest. Stalin's statue was brought down and the protesters chanted "Russians go home", "Away with Gero" and "Long Live Nagy".

On 25th October Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Parliament Square. One journalist at the scene saw 12 dead bodies and estimated that 170 had been wounded. Shocked by these events the Central Committee of the Communist Party forced Erno Gero to resign from office and replaced him with Janos Kadar.

Imre Nagy now went on Radio Kossuth and promised the "the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics, and the realisation of our lofty national aim: the radical improvement of the workers' living conditions."

On 4th November 1956 Nikita Khrushchev sent the Red Army into Hungary. Mindszenty was granted asylum in the United States legation where he remained until 1971 when he was allowed to go abroad.

Joseph Mindszenty died in Vienna in 1975.

Primary Sources

(1) Imre Nagy, Radio Kossuth (31st October, 1956)

Here is an important announcement: The Hungarian National Government wishes to state that the proceedings instituted in 1948 against Jozsef Mindszenty, Cardinal Primate, lacked all legal basis and that the accusations levelled against him by the regime of that day were unjustified. In consequence the Hungarian National Government announces that the measures depriving Cardinal Primate Jozsef Mindszenty of his rights are invalid and that the Cardinal is free to exercise without restriction all his civil and ecclesiastical rights.

(2) Joseph Mindszenty, speech (1st November, 1956)

After long imprisonment I am speaking to all the sons of the Hungarian nation. In my heart there is no hatred against anyone. It is an admirable heroism that is at present liberating the fatherland. This struggle for liberty is unexampled in world history. Our youth deserves all glory. They deserve gratitude and prayers for their sacrifices. Our army, workers

and peasants have shown an example of heroic love of the fatherland. The situation of the country is very serious; conditions tor the continuance of life are lacking. The path of fruitful development must be found as speedily as possible. I am now gathering information, and in two days' time I will broadcast to the nation about the means of achieving this development.

(3) New York Times (3rd November, 1956)

Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty appealed to the West today for political support in Hungary's fight against Soviet domination. He said his appeal was addressed especially to the "great powers" in the West, presumably the United States, Britain and France. He asked also for gifts to relieve the suffering here.

Speaking in German in a strong vibrant voice, the Cardinal told correspondents who crowded his small, almost" bare study that "the whole Hungarian people wish and demand that Russian troops leave Hungarian territory." "The people," he added, "want to work for themselves and for the life of the nation."

The Cardinal said he had received a telegram of blessings from Pope Pius. He said the telegram had contained nothing else. This was taken to mean that he had no political instructions from the Vatican.

As he did just after his release, he avoided a direct answer to the question whether he would take part in a government. He answered that he had not had time to get the full picture of political conditions in Hungary.

Cardinal Mindszenty resumed his role as leader of Hungary's Roman Catholics by receiving (1 November) a delegation headed by Vice-Premier Zoltan Tildy, one of two non-Communists in the Imre Nagy Cabinet. Informed sources said Cardinal Mindszenty told the delegation that he wants the formation of a Christian Democratic party with a voice in the Cabinet and cannot consider supporting the present regime unless this is accomplished. These sources said the Cardinal envisages a party "on the Adenauer line," referring to the West German CDU. But they added that the Hungarian party should embrace "all Christians," including the nation's Protestant Lutheran population. The sources said

they believe Cardinal Mindszenty is willing to accept a coalition government including Hungary's "Tito Communists."

(4) Joseph Mindszenty, speech (1st November, 1956)

Nowadays it is often emphasized that the speaker breaking away from the practice of the past is speaking sincerely. I cannot say this in such a way. I need not break with my past; by the grace of God I am the same as I was before my imprisonment. I stand by my conviction physically and spiritually intact, just as I was eight years ago, although imprisonment has left its mark on me. Nor can I say that now I will speak more sincerely, for I have always spoken sincerely.

Now is the first instance in history that Hungary is enjoying the sympathy of all civilized nations. We are deeply moved by this. A small nation has heartfelt joy that because of its love of liberty the other nations have taken up its cause. We see Providence in this, expressed by the solidarity of foreign nations just as it says in our national anthem: "God bless the Hungarian - reach out to him Thy protective hand." Then our national anthem continues; "when he is fighting against his enemy." But we, even in our extremely severe situation, hope that we have no enemy! For we are not enemies of anyone. We desire to live in friendship with every people and with every country.

We, the little nation, desire to live in friendship and in mutual respect with the great American United States and with the mighty Russian Empire alike, in good neighborly relationship with Prague, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Belgrade. In this regard I must mention that for the brotherly understanding in our present suffering every Hungarian has embraced Austria to his heart.

And now, our entire position is decided by what the Russian Empire of 200 millions intends to do with the military force standing within our frontiers. Radio announcements say that this military force is growing. We are neutral, we give the

Russian Empire no cause for bloodshed. But has the idea not occurred to the leader of the Russian Empire that we will respect the Russian people far more if it does not oppress us. It is only an enemy people which is attacked by another country. We have not attacked Russia and sincerely hope that the withdrawal of Russian military forces from our country will soon occur.

This has been a freedom fight which was unparalleled in the world, with the young generation at the head of the nation. The fight for freedom was fought because the nation wanted to decide freely on how it should live. It wants to be free to decide about the management of its state and the use of its labor. The people themselves will not permit this fact to be distorted to the advantage of some unauthorized powers or hidden motives. We need new elections - without abuses - at which every party can nominate.