Servants of God Bernát Károlyi And Six Companions ("Franciscan martyrs")
Servant of God Bernát Károlyi
(Born in 1892)
Birth into heaven: 2 March 1954
Father Bernát Károlyi had come back to Hungary from a highly successful mission in China in 1938. For three years, he lived in different places in Hungary, and in 1941 he moved to the convent of the Franciscan order in Kecskemét. In 1945 he was appointed prior. As the Soviet front-line was approaching, he organized the management of the hospital, the treatment of the patients who had been left behind and the reception and food supply of the constantly arriving refugees. In 1945 he protested against the humiliating treatment of political prisoners, thus he was arrested. At that time, however, the charge against him was dropped. In 1946 and in spring 1949 he was tried again for "anti-democratic" preaching, but he received light punishment. On 26 November 1949 he was arrested again for "anti-democratic conspiracy against the people's republic". On 18 November 1950 he was sentenced to fifteen years of prison for conspiracy against the state.
In the prison, Father Bernát was tortured and deprived of food, but he did not lose his faith. According to the memories of his fellow prisoners, he continued to hear confessions and practice works of charity even under such circumstances. When he was taken to hospital he only weighed 35 kg. He passed away in the hospital on 2 March 1954.
The memory of his martyrdom has not faded; when his process of beatification was to be initiated, 700 Catholics of Kecskemét signed the petition.
Servant of God Rafael Kriszten
(Born in 1899)
Birth into heaven: 5 September 1952
Father Rafael Kriszten, who was known for his pastoral activity in the Franciscan convent at Margit körút from 1941 to 1946, was also carried away from Hatvan in 1950. During the war, he saved many persecuted people and helped the starving by giving them what was available in the kitchen of the convent. In August 1949 he was transferred to Hatvan, where the faithful treated the Franciscans with a lot of love and respect. At that time the persecution of the Church was quite overt. On 19 June 1950 the first group of religious was deported, and the Franciscan fathers were also prepared for their turn. However, on that day the trucks did not stop in front of the convent to take them away but to leave there the Piarists and the Salvatorian Sisters, who had been carried away from elsewhere. Nevertheless, people thought that the soldiers had come to carry away the Franciscan fathers, therefore, the faithful gathered in front of the church in protest. The police called on Father Rafael to disperse the crowd, but he did not succeed. During the night, the political police dispersed the demonstration using violence, and they beat all the religious to pulp. The four Franciscan fathers were taken to 60 Andrássy Street. On 26 May 1951, Father Rafael was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy against the democratic state. He served his sentence in the prison of Conti Street, where the inhumane conditions and treatment destroyed his already poor health. He passed away on 5 September 1952.
Servant of God Zénó Hajnal
(Born in 1900)
Birth into heaven:1 April 1945
In the last period of World War II, in March 1945, the village of Nagyatád (in Somogy County) lied in the front-line of the national socialist and Soviet troops. The inhabitants were trying to escape, led by Father Zénó Hajnal, superior of the Franciscan convent. During the Holy Week of 1945 they reached Gyékényes, where Bulgarian and German troops were fighting each other. On Easter Sunday, the Bulgarian soldiers occupied the village and chased away the inhabitants. They made the parish priest, Pál Martincsevics and Father Zénó, who was hiding in his house, join the group. When a Bulgarian soldier caught sight of the priests, one in habit and the other one in cassock, he called them and shot them without any reason. No one else was hurt. The soldier's action was motivated by hatred for the faith.
Servant of God Krizosztom Körösztös
(Born in 1900)
Birth into heaven: 27 October 1944
Following the re-annexation of the southern part of Hungary in 1942, the Franciscan Province of Saint John of Capistrano was asked to establish a convent in Novi Sad in order to provide spiritual care to the Hungarian inhabitants who had had to move there. The Franciscans organized the religious education and the popular missions, but as early as autumn 1944 they had to face the sudden advance of Serbian guerrilla troops, who regarded the Catholic Church as their enemy.
Krizosztom Körösztös became superior of the convent of Novi Sad after having returned from a mission in America and from the battles by the Don River. His superiors offered him the possibility of returning to Hungary, but he wanted to stay with his faithful. The Serbian troops reached Novi Sad on 23 October 1944, feast of Saint John of Capistrano, they occupied the city and captured all the men. Father Krizosztom still had the chance to flee, but as the rest of the Franciscans did not have such a possibility, he decided not to leave them. The religious and the rest of the captives were led to the barracks, where the Franciscans kept consoling their fellow prisoners and hearing their confessions for several days. In the morning of 27 October, Father Krizosztom and other men were taken to the neighbouring barrack, with the promise of being released that day. The next day they were beaten to death at the sound of music.
Servant of God Szaléz Kiss
(Born in 1904)
Birth into heaven: 10 December 1946
Father Szaléz Kiss was the spiritual director of the novices of the Franciscan convent of Gyöngyös from 1944, thus he was the superior when the Russian troops entered the town. In order to unite the youth of the town, in 1945 he organized the Christian Democratic Youth Association, which hindered the youth activity of the communists, who, therefore, strongly disapproved of it. Father Szaléz Kiss was arrested on 28 April 1946 with the feigned charge of leading an armed conspiracy and having instigated his students to kill Soviet soldiers, having promised them the absolution in advance. The documents of the process have revealed that the entire process was based on feigned charges and the majority of the testimonies were not given by Father Szaléz. The memories of his co-defendants, who were later released, point out that although the Franciscan father was beaten up terribly, he did not break the seal of confession. The trial was led by the Soviet officers, without interpreters, who sentenced Father Szaléz to death. He was executed on 10 December 1946 in Sopronkőhida. The Hungarian province of the Franciscan order has honoured Father Szaléz Kiss, since his death, as a martyr of the seal of confession.
Servant of God Kristóf Kovács
Birth into heaven: 1 November 1944
Another martyr of the convent of Novi Sad, Father Kristóf Kovács asked for being transferred to Vojvodina in 1944 because he wished to become a martyr for Christ. He was also arrested on 26 October 1944 and deported along with other captives. Father Kristóf consoled his fellow-prisoners, heard confessions during the night, after the tiresome marches, and he often administered the sacrament of penance to people who had not gone to confession for decades. The guards disapproved of the pastoral activity of Father Kristóf and other priests, thus they separated them from the crowd during the marches. He and Father Mihály Kamarás were constrained to run with heavy guns in their hands while the guards were beating them with iron rods and guns. One of the blows fell on his forehead, thus he was unable to go on. The soldiers put him on a truck and shot him just outside the village of Indijja.
Servant of God Pelbárt Lukács
(Born in 1916)
Birth into heaven: 18 April 1948
The legal proceeding of Pelbárt Lukács, a member of the Franciscan convent of Hatvan, was joined to the case of Szaléz Kiss. He was accused of acting as a liaison between the towns of Hatvan and Gyöngyös in the anti-Soviet conspiracy and of having had information about the preparations of the murder of soldiers in Gyöngyös. Father Pelbárt was arrested at the beginning of May 1946, and the Hungarian authorities handed him over to the Soviet military tribunal. His trial took place under unlawful circumstances; the father was sentenced to ten years of forced labour and was deported to the Soviet Union. In the work camp, his gastric disease became worse and he died of cancer of the larynx on 18 April 1948 amidst terrible suffering. He was rehabilitated by the Soviet authorities in 1993. His fellow Franciscans have always remembered him as a martyr.
CCS protocol number: 2959
Collective diocesan inquiry
Competent forum: Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest
Competent bishop: Cardinal Péter Erdő, primate and archbishop
Postulator: Peregrin Kálmán OFM
Diocesan inquiry: 27 November 2011 – 31 August 2013
Inquiry of the Holy See (CCS)
Postulator (CCS): Giovangiuseppe Califano OFM
Decree on validity of diocesan inquiry:
Promulgation of papal decree on martyrdom:
Let us pray for their beatification!
Our mighty and true God,
you wonderfully revealed the mystery of the Cross in the lives of your servant Bernát and his companions
when you made the light of the faith shine through their sacrifice even in the darkness of dictatorships.
We ask you to glorify your servants in your Holy Church so that their life, which always bore witness to the faith, and their martyrdom may be a source of strength and encouragement for us when we strive to follow Christ, who was poor and humble.
Who lives and reins for ever and ever.
Those who obtain favours through their intercession are asked to notify the
Office of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest
1014 Budapest, Úri u. 62.