by Margit Balogh
Catholic University of America Press, 2022
Paper: 978-0-8132-3494-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8132-3499-1
Library of Congress Classification BX4705.M5565B3513 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 282.092

“Victim of history,” “a martyr from behind the Iron Curtain,” “the Hungarian Gandhi” – these are just some of the epithets which people used to describe Cardinal Mindszenty, archbishop of Esztergom, who was the last Hungarian prelate to use the title of prince primate. Today, Mindszenty has been forgotten in most countries except for Hungary, but when he died in 1975, he was known all over the world as a symbol of the struggle of the Catholic Church against communism.

Cardinal Mindszenty held the post of archbishop of Esztergom from 1945 until 1974, but during this period of almost three decades he served barely four years in office. The political police arrested him on December 26, 1948, and the Budapest People’s Court subsequently sentenced him to life imprisonment. Based on the Stalinist practice of show trials, one of the accusations against Mindszenty, referring to his legitimist leanings, was his alleged attempt to re-establish Habsburg rule in Hungary. He regained freedom during the 1956 revolution but only for a few days. He was granted refuge by the US Embassy in Budapest between November 4, 1956 –September 28, 1971. In the fifteen years he spent at the American embassy enormous changes took place in the world while his personality remained frozen into the past. When in 1971 Pope Paul VI received the Hungarian foreign minister, he called Mindszenty “the victim of history”. His last years were spent free at last, but far away from his homeland. In Hungary, the Catholic believers eagerly await his beatification.