Most Eminent Highness József Prince-Primate Mindszenty of Hungary
I would like to dedicate this page
Memory of the late
Most Eminent Highness József Prince-Primate Mindszenty of Hungary
(The Cardinal's Hungarian title, to the best of
my knowledge, was)
Mindszenty József, Biboros Herceg Primás of Hungary,
esztergomi érsek, or
(Most Eminent Highness József Prince Primate Mindszenty,
Archbishop of Esztergom.)
I am blessed to have known him.
The world is better place because of him.
The Most Eminent Highness, the
Cardinal visited New Zealand including my town Auckland
in 1975. I'll dedicate this page firstly to show my great
respect for the 'Holy Man', as a person and as a much
persecuted head of the Catholic Church in communist
Hungary. Secondly because of my deep felt guilt. (I
will explain this later, please read on.)
During the German occupation of Hungary in WWII, József
Mindszenty was bishop of Veszprém.
The bishop's patriotism, his never changing attitude
to serve God, his church and the Hungarian people put
him in direct conflict with the occupying forces and
the day's government. He served several months in prison.
In 1945 he became archbishop of Esztergom and Catholic
Primate of Hungary.
In 1946 he was made Cardinal.
The ruling communists embarked on confiscating the Catholic
Church's - and other Churches' as well - lands, schools,
most high schools and other properties. They started
with the land confiscation in 1945, and the schools
In 1948, József Cardinal Mindszenty, who was a staunch,
outspoken opponent of the confiscations and communism
was arrested, on treason and other 'drummed up charges',
but mainly for his objections to the confiscations and
for his outspokenness.
During his years in prison he was tortured regularly.
Before József Cardinal Mindszenty's trial all schools
and most high schools were confiscated.
The ultimate goal was to suppress all religious activity
completely and to eradicate the Churches within a foreseeable
future by administrative measures and intimidation.
They sought to keep the young away from the Churches
and from religious instruction and activity. Teachers
were forbidden to attend church services.
At a sensational public trial, József Cardinal Mindszenty
- in complete surprise to everyone - pleaded guilty
to most charges. Everybody suspected that the Cardinal
was either drugged or tortured to plead guilty. (I personally
doubt that he would plead guilty under torture, he had
a much stronger personality. Under the influence of
drugs, perhaps, but not torture.)
He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1955, because of his ill health József Cardinal Mindszenty
was released from prison and kept under house arrest
During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, József Cardinal
Mindszenty was released by the village people (30-10-56).
At last the much loved, respected and revered Cardinal
of Hungary was free. Ever so briefly.
After 4 November 1956, when the invading Soviets brutally
crushed the popular uprising, József Cardinal Mindszenty
took refuge in the U.S. legation in Budapest.
The following years, the fact that he did not leave
the country caused serious problems for the Communists.
Under constant pressure from the communist government,
József Cardinal Mindszenty refused to leave Hungary
unless the Hungarian government rescinded his conviction
In 1964, the Hungarian state and the Vatican signed
a concordat, which most of the laity resented. In effect,
it covered only the appointment of bishops to fill vacancies
with the addition that the state had the right to veto
In response to the Church's unwillingness to compromise,
the state, as usual, took massive legal action against
Catholic priests and laity in 1965. The last of the
big trials took place in 1971-1972, as part of the effort
to influence the Pope to persuade Cardinal Mindszenty
to resign from his position as Archbishop of Esztergom-the
seat of the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church. Usually
priests and laymen who played an active role in Catholic
communities and organised youth groups were indicted.
The charge was serious: generally, they were prosecuted
for conspiracy against the state.
In 1971, after an agreement between the Vatican and
the Hungarian government, József Cardinal Mindszenty
left Hungary for the Vatican on September 29, 1971.
The Pope received him with great honour and assured
him: "You are and remain Archbishop of Esztergom
and primate of Hungary. Continue working, and if you
have difficulties, always turn trustfully to us."
Later József Cardinal Mindszenty set up office in Vienna.
József Cardinal Mindszenty asked the Holy See to make
it possible for him to care for Hungarian Catholics
in foreign countries and to appoint suffragan bishops
for them. His requests were not granted. After settling
in Vienna, Cardinal Mindszenty had to endure another
humiliation when, on February 5, 1974, in an effort
to improve church relations with Hungary, Pope Paul
VI removed him as primate of Hungary and announced his
removal from the See of Esztergom. (It was here that
Prince Géza established the royal seat. Subsequently
his son Stephen chose it as the site of Hungary's first
cathedral. His coronation by a papal envoy on Christmas
Day 1000 AD signified the country's recognition by Christendom.
In 1991, the hill was the setting for two events symbolising
the Church's triumph over Communism: the reburial of
the exiled Cardinal Mindszenty and the first papal visit
József Cardinal Mindszenty's office announced: the Cardinal
has not abdicated his office as Archbishop nor his dignity
as primate of Hungary. The decision was taken by the
Holy See alone.
The first issue Kontinent printed three pictures on
the cover with three quotations. The pictures are those
of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Milovan Djilas, and József
Cardinal Mindszenty. The following quotation accompanies
the Cardinal's picture: "The Church does not ask
to be defended by secular powers because its refuge
is under the wings of God. The picture over the altar
in the church of Papa represents the stoning of St.
Stephen. I pointed to this picture and appealed to the
Hungarians not to stone each other, but imitate the
virtue of this protomartyr of the Holy Church."
Cardinal Mindszenty died in Vienna on May 6, 1975. R.I.P.
(This account does not intend to be a precise account
of the late Prince-Primate József Mindszenty, Archbishop
of Esztergom, Cardinal of Hungary.
My purpose is to spread the story, acknowledge the Prince-Primate
József Mindszenty's greatness, sufferings to the best
of my knowledge. I intend to leave a precise account
to the professionals. I will except any corrections
In 1975 the late Cardinal Mindszenty visited
the Hungarians in New Zealand, including my home town
Here I have some photos of the Cardinal's
visit to Auckland and also my confession, which
is closely related to His Most Eminent Highness' Auckland
My story and confession.
I admire, respect and revere the
late Prince-Primate József Mindszenty, Archbishop of
Esztergom, Cardinal of Hungary.
The Prince-Primate made numerous visits to Hungarians
Before his death the late Prince-Primate visited New
In Auckland I was fortunate enough to be the 'official
photographer' at his arrival.
Some time later at a public meeting he urged us to be
faithful to our Hungarian heritage, maintain our patriotism
and keep our language alive. Teach our children our
language. (This one specially struck a cord with me
at the time. For one, I was married to an English woman,
our communication was through English only, although
she would probably was willing to learn my language,
however useless it seems here in New Zealand, if had
I only went to the extra trouble to teach her. We also
had a daughter, who was 13 years old at the time and
only knew a very few words of Hungarian. Since than
I married again, my son is 15 years old now, my wife
a is Singaporean Chinese, the same story again. Secondly
Hungary suffered great humiliation after WWI at the
Trianon Peace Agreement. When Hungary lost 2/3rd of
the 1000 year old kingdom/country.
Even today there are many people in Hungary, whom after
some hundreds, some even a thousand years under Hungarian
rule, still speak their Germanic or Slavic language.
And here I am, after just over forty years in New Zealand
and my language is gone.)
At the meeting the Prince-Primate asked for volunteers,
one from the north, east, south and west part of Auckland,
to be the 'trustees' to set up a school to teach our
kids our language.
I was one of the volunteers, the one from the west.
We started and I kept the school going for a few months.
In the end I ended up as the teacher. At the second
'class' three of us 'trustees' turned up. At the third
and the other following ones, I was the only one.
About five years later, my conscience feeling guilty,
at my own cost I bought some books from overseas, I
talked a retired teacher into to teach a class at a
cut rate. We persevered for about a year. We had about
10 students at the start. A few months later, there
was only three left, including me.None of the other
three 'trustees would have anything to do with the school
anymore. They would have nothing to do with the school
anymore and wouldn't even give me moral support. The
following year I re-started the school again, this time
I was the teacher. Again I kept going till the end of
the school year. this time we had 15 to start and 6
finishing, this time not including myself. Due to lack
of interest, I could not start the class the following
year. About 5 years later I enrolled and qualified as
a 'Second Language Teacher' at the Auckland University
Due to general apathy, lack of interest in the Hungarian
language in Auckland, at present I do not know of any
Hungarian Language class/es.
Right now and all through the previous years I felt
guilty for not doing more for preserving my heritage
The truth is that even my son (15) only knows a few
words of Hungarian.
I feel I let Prince-Primate József Mindszenty and my
I was very glad to see, that there are many 'Cardinal
Mindszenty' clubs, organisations functioning in the
I sincerely hope and wish, that they do not run up against
the apathy, prevalent here in Auckland, New Zealand.
Here I would like to quote one of the many responses
I received to this article
Dear Mr. Bernhardt,
You should not feel so guilty.
I am an American of half-Hungarian ancestry and I am
just beginning to learn my mother's first language at
the age of fifty.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take my mother
to Hungary in 1997.
It was wonderful.
We were able to pray to Cardinal Mindszenty at his tomb
in the Esztergom Cathedral.
It was one of the high points of my life. He has always
been a hero and saint to me ever since I was a child.
I was also able to hear him speak (although my mother
had to translate at the time) and attend one of his
Masses here in the United States in the early 1970's.
I always pray for his canonization, which I believe
I think what you describe about Hungarians "losing"
their heritage is true, but I also think that it illustrates
what makes Hungarians successful wherever they go.
I think that they throw themselves with enthusiasm into
whichever culture they find themselves.
They are also not "clannish."
They are very open and accepting to all kinds of people.
In my family, none of the Hungarians married other Hungarians.
They get along with everyone.
God bless you for your
devotion to the Cardinal and to your heritage! Isten
áldd meg a magyart!
BEATIFICATION PROCESS FOR CARDINAL
Vatican City, October 22, 1996
- Documentation for the process
of beatification of Cardinal József Mindszenty, who
died in Vienna in 1975, has been presented to the Congregation
for the Causes of Saints by the postulator, Fr. János
The cardinal was born in Mindszent, Hungary, in 1892,
was ordained a priest in 1915 and a bishop in 1944.
Raised to the Primacy of Hungary in 1945, he was created
a cardinal the following year. He was arrested in 1948
by the communist regime and imprisoned in 1949. During
several days of freedom given to him in 1956, he sought
refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, where he remained
until 1971, when he was permitted to leave the country.
Links to other pages/sites on the
web regarding Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty.
a. I may not necessarily agree with or endorse all the
views, statements or aims stated on these site/s.
b. I started off having about 12 different links to
relevant sites and pages, but recently I had to delete
most of them, because they didn't work any longer)