Behold a great priest, who in his days pleased God,
and was found just; and in the time of wrath was made
(Sir 44:16-17, reading of the common of bishops, excerpt)
"Fidelissimus in tribulatione pastor, the most faithful pastor in times of persecution", proclaims the inscription on the grave of the Servant of God Cardinal József Mindszenty, primate of Hungary, archbishop of Esztergom,(1) in the archiepiscopal crypt of the Primatial Basilica of Esztergom. In Mariazell, the grave of the cardinal, who was commonly regarded as a saint in his life, became a destination of pilgrims as early as 1975(2). Flowers and wreaths covered the grave and the national colours soon almost concealed the wrought iron fence of the Saint Ladislaus Chapel of the church of Mariazell, which was just a temporary resting place for the deceased. Pope John Paul II paid a tribute to Cardinal József Mindszenty, in front of his tomb in Mariazell, for the first time on 13 September 1983. He did so for the second time on 16 August 1991 in the primatial crypt of the Esztergom Basilica. His prayerful tribute conveyed an important pontifical message: the recognition of the force and value of the common veneration for the Cardinal.
The preparations of the process of canonization of the prince primate were made by the enthusiastic Hungarian priest in New Brunswick, Franciscan Father Julián Füzér, who was also a prominent representative of the literature on Mindszenty written in the exile. A Hungarian delegation, led by Cardinal László Lékai, participated at the Eucharistic Congress organized in Philadelphia (USA) in 1976. At the related meeting of Hungarian priests, Father Julián he insisted on the preparation of the official process. The last point of his work programme was the following: "At last, we ask our brothers and sisters in Hungary and, first of all, the Hungarian bishops to promote Mindszenty's complete rehabilitation at home and to work for his canonization in Hungary, as much as we do in the exile."(3) What was a distant dream then, became a reality fifteen years later, after the fall of communism.
During the Mariazell Days organized on 16-17 June 1979, the Mindszenty Museum was opened and, urged by the lay faithful, a petition was launched for his hoped-for beatification, as in earlier times the signatures of trustworthy people had been required for the promotion of processes of canonization. Father Julián started to gather written memories in 1985. The one hundred and ninety-two testimonies were published under the title Szentnek kiáltjuk! (We proclaim him a saint!)(4). In 1986, the Mindszenty Foundation asked the competent bishop based on the location of death, Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna Hans Hermann Groer, to commence the process. In 1988, Salesian monk P. János Szőke was appointed as first postulator of the cause. In 1988, the documents, written praises and reports of an ever increasing number of favours received through his intercession were taken to the Office for the Causes of Saints in Vienna.
Thus the Mindszenty Foundation became the official promoter of the Cardinal's process of canonization, and it also bears the costs of the inquiry. In 1993, Cardinal László Paskai received the approval of the Holy See and the unanimous support of the Hungarian bishops to take over the tasks related to the process of canonization from the archbishop of Vienna. The diocesan inquiry in Hungary started on 19 March 1994, feast of Saint Joseph. The gathered historical sources, documents, testimonies, historians’ and theologians’ expert opinions amount to several thousand pages. In 1996, Cardinal Paskai closed the diocesan inquiry and sent the Italian translation of the documentation to the office of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. This clearly shows that the competent bishop and his colleagues (including his successor, Cardinal Péter Erdő, who acted as Promotor Iustitiae during the process) regard the extensive documentation, which displays the life and the heroic virtues of the prince primate, who is considered a saint, as well-founded.
In 2005, the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference established a joinder of parties with the Mindszenty Foundation, promoter of the cause, and in May 2006 it declared that the Cardinal's beatification was convenient from a pastoral perspective and urged it in front of the competent forum of the Holy See. The diocesan phase of the process of canonization of József Mindszenty was closed, the extensive documentation was completed and sent to Rome. Ádám Somorjai OSB was the relator of the process in Rome until 2007. Since then, P. Vincenzo Criscuolo OFMCap has held this position: he is responsible for compiling the documentation, the so-called Positio. In 2012, the Permanent Commission of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference officially reconfirmed the official petition of the Hungarian Church for the beatification and canonization of the Cardinal.
The process of canonization of the Servant of God József Mindszenty is based on the enthusiastic veneration of many who regularly pray(5) for his intercession and for the success of his process of canonization. It's quite probable that there is no other outstanding figure of the Hungarian Church whose devotion is as widespread as that of Cardinal Mindszenty, despite all the previous difficulties. In the practice of canonization processes, such a prospering veneration is a valuable proof of the fact that the beatification and canonization of József Mindszenty are not an isolated and artificial private initiative but the well-founded hope of the communities of the local Church, raised and maintained by the Holy Spirit. "Cardinal Mindszenty's beatification is under way but the Hungarians, in their soul, already consider their martyr cardinal a saint."(6) "Cardinal Mindszenty is recognized by the Church. He already enjoys the same veneration as if he had been officially beatified."(7)
Main dates of József Mindszenty's process of canonization:
26 February 1993
The Archbishop of Vienna transferred his competence regarding the process of canonization to be initiated to the Primate-Archbishop of Esztergom.
15 June 1993
The Holy See issued the statement of "Nihil obstat" indicating that nothing had been found that could exclude the possibility of initiating the process of canonization.
16 December 1993
The Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference considered it opportune to initiate the process of canonization and gave its unanimous support for it.
19 March 1994
The process of canonization was opened in the Central Seminary in Budapest.
4 January 1996
The theological censors declared that the writings of Cardinal Mindszenty did not contain anything contrary to the Faith and good morals of the Catholic Church, and the historical consultors systematized and evaluated the gathered sources and formed their opinion of the person of the Cardinal and his role in history.
2 July 1996
The documentation was finalized.
31 July 1996
The diocesan inquiry was closed.
22 October 1996
The documentation was officially handed over to the competent authority in Rome.
8 November 1999
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognized the authenticity of the documentation and the fact that the diocesan inquiry had been carried out properly and in compliance with the Church regulations.
With the aim of promoting the process of canonization of the Servant of God József Mindszenty, the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference established a joinder of parties with the Mindszenty Foundation, promoter of the cause.
The Permanent Commission of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference officially confirmed its petition for the beatification and canonization of the Cardinal.
CCS protocol number: 1909
Competent forum: Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest
Competent bishop: Cardinal László Paskai, Cardinal Péter Erdő, primate and archbishop
Postulator: János Szőke SDB
Diocesan inquiry: 19 March 1994 – 31 July 1996
Inquiry of the Holy See (CCS)
Postulator (CCS): Andrea Ambrosi
Decree on validity of diocesan inquiry: 8 November 1999
Promulgation of papal decree on heroic virtues:
Promulgation of papal decree on miracle:
Expiatory prayer for the canonization of the Servant of God Cardinal József Mindszenty
Heavenly Father, You willingly accept the sacrifice of your faithful, which they offer to you united to Christ's sacrifice in order to complete "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1:24). We ask you to accept the humiliations and sacrifices of your servant, József Cardinal Mindszenty, which he, in his life, offered for the Hungarian Church and nation. May his sufferings continue to be an acceptable sacrifice for the Church and Hungary. United to him, we offer our prayers and sacrifices for the spiritual renewal of the Hungarian nation. If you so will, grant your faithful Hungarian people to honour your servant, Cardinal József Mindszenty among the saints of our Church. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Short prayer for the canonization of the Servant of God
Almighty God, you chose Cardinal József Mindszenty to be a faithful bishop and pastor till his death in times of persecution, and a living testimony of truth and charity.
Grant your faithful people the joy of honouring him among the saints of our Church. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
(1) The Latin text of the inscription was formulated by Dr. Gáspár Ladocsi, military ordinary emeritus. Its translation reads as follows: "Humiliated by life – exalted by death. Cardinal priest of the Holy Roman Church and of the Basilica of St. Stephen in the Round on the Celian Hill, last prince primate of Hungary, archbishop of Esztergom, the most faithful pastor in times of persecution JÓZSEF MINDSZENTY 29 March 1892 – 6 May 1975 He stood firm in the tempest of the war. He was tortured and imprisoned by the despotic power. He was exiled from his country. He was an obedient son of the Holy Mother Church. He reinforced the honour of his beloved country till his death. He was buried in Mariazell but he was brought home 16 years after his death. Here he rests in peace."
(2) The Latin inscription on his tomb in Mariazell can be translated as follows: "This marble slab covers the remains, until they return to their beloved fatherland, of József Mindszenty, who was born in Csehimindszent on 29 March 1892, ordained priest in Szombathely in 1915, became parish priest of Zalaegerszeg four years later, bishop of Veszprém 25 years later and archbishop of Esztergom and cardinal, prince primate of Hungary in 1945. He stood for God, for the Church and for his suffering nation. Twice he was imprisoned by the oppressing power and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1949. He was released from prison thanks to the freedom fight of 1956, however, when the Soviet power violently subjugated Hungary, he took refuge at the Budapest embassy of the United States of America. Out of obedience, he took on the heavy cross of exile, and as an old man became faithful pastor and true father of the Hungarians scattered all over the world. He died in Vienna on 6 May 1975. Cardinal József Mindszenty Primate of Hungary 1892–1975 He lived and he shall live for the Sacred Pannonia."
(3) Cited in József Közi Horváth, Mindszenty bíboros, Munich, 1980, p. 114.
(4) Julián Füzér: Szentnek kiáltjuk! Exiled Hungarians about Cardinal Mindszenty on the 10th anniversary of his death, Youngstown, 1987
(5) The movement of expiation of the "One million Hungarians in prayer", launched by Cardinal Mindszenty, culminated in the national year of expiation in 2006. On 20 August, Cardinal Péter Erdő announced that the number of people praying for Hungary had reached and, what is more, significantly exceeded the one million mark.
(6) The words of Balázs Bábel, Archbishop of Kalocsa, are cited in István Mészáros: Mindszenty-mozaik, Budapest, 2002, p. 243.
(7) The words of Cardinal Achille Silvestrini are cited in István Mészáros, Mindszenty-mozaik, Budapest, 2002, p. 243.