Letters Recalling ’56 Hungarian Revolution

Between Budapest’s Cardinal and Moscow’s Patriarch

BUDAPEST, Hungary, MARCH 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here are the letters exchanged between Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Hungarian episcopal conference, and Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow.

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His Holiness Alexy II
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Feb. 7, 2006

Your Holiness,

In the name of the entire Catholic community of Hungary, I wish Your Holiness, and the whole Russian Orthodox Church, that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

This year Hungary celebrates the 50th anniversary of the revolution of 1956. Besides paying homage to the deceased, the Catholic Church has placed hope at the center of this commemoration; we have proclaimed this year to be a Year of Prayer for the spiritual renewal of our nation.

Christ’s teaching on reconciliation takes on a significant role in this renewal, as well as the overcoming of despair and the respectful acknowledgment of our own people and the people of other nations. Man is God’s creation. Languages, cultures, communities, the unique and special genius of nations, manifested throughout history in the process of overcoming life’s hardships, is of great value for mankind as a whole and in the eyes of the Creator himself.

It was an unforgettable and uplifting moment for us all, when, on November 12, 1992, the leader of the Russian people expressed his remorse to the Hungarian people, for the events that took place in 1956.

Remembering this noble gesture, we are moved to express our great love and respect for the Russian people. We admire the magnificent works of Russian culture, art and literature, which are an eternal treasure for mankind. Some of these depict the depth and richness of the human soul in a unique way, unsurpassed on the world scale. We are greatly indebted to the spiritual and cultural richness of Russian Christianity and to the memory and example of those Russian Christians who gave witness to, suffered for and even gave their lives for their faith. At the same time, we express our grief and ask for God’s mercy for all the pain and suffering that certain Hungarians may have caused Russians over the course of history.

Your Holiness’ visit to Esztergom on March 5, 1994, occupies a special place in history of the Hungarian Church. At the spiritual center of the Hungarian Catholic Church we implored the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to accompany Your Holiness and to bless Your service, so that under Your leadership history’s scars may be healed and thus the Russian Christianity may be renewed in its faith in Christ and in its following Him. This very same spiritual renewal and reconciliation through faith and solidarity is at the heart of the Hungarian Church. I ask for Your Holiness’ prayers, so that our people may further grow in this renewed spirit of reconciliation, solidarity and cooperative work, so that they may all contribute to the integral realization of Europe’s peoples through mutual respect, love, and through Christian and human virtues and values.

We ask the blessing of Lord of history and the supporting intercession of the Virgin Mother of God upon Your Holiness’ apostolic work, the community of the Russian Orthodox Church and the entire Russian nation.

Cardinal Peter Erdo
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
Primate of Hungary
President of the Hungarian Conference of Catholic Bishops

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The Most Reverend Peter Cardinal Erdo
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
Primate of Hungary
President of the Hungarian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Your Eminence,

Thank you very much for your letter of Feb. 7, 2006, expressing respect for the Russian people and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The anniversary of the tragic events of 1956 to be marked in Hungary next year is certainly an occasion for us to think again about the past, present and future of the people of Hungary and Russia.

A great deal of severe trials came to the lot of our nations in the 20th century. Among the victims of the violent persecution carried out by the godless regime were numerous clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church. Their lives were crowned with the feat of confession and martyrdom. Millions of people were killed in action during World War II.

The remains of Russian soldiers lie in rest in numerous cemeteries scattered on the face of the Hungarian land, while thousands of Hungarian soldiers found their last refuge in the Russian land.

In the postwar period, the history of our nations has seen many a bitter scene, and among them are the events of 1956. The remembrance of those events fills our hearts with pain and sincere regret.

The wounds inflicted by the historical upheaval of the past can be healed only by prayer, repentance and reconciliation. Lifting up a prayer for all those who suffered innocently, the Church of Christ calls those who live today to “a change of mind” and inner renewal. She calls them to build that “city to come” which, according to St. Paul, is sought by all Christians (cf. Hebrews 13:14). Therefore, I can appreciate your desire to make the coming year a year of a spiritual renewal of the Hungarian nation.

I hope that this renewal will also involve Orthodox Hungarians, the clergy and parishioners of the churches under the Hungarian Diocese of the Moscow Patriachate. It is gratifying for me to realize that you and our Hungarian diocese have established good and cordial relations. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to the Cathedral of the Holy Dormition in Petofi Square in Budapest, where the original spiritual and liturgical tradition of Hungarian Orthodoxy is carefully preserved and developed.

Your Eminence, relations between Russia and Hungary are on the rise at present. Evidence to it, among other things, is the return of the Sarospatak Library, which was taken out of Hungary by the Germans during World War II and found itself in Russia as a war trophy in postwar years. This event is an act of restoration of historical justice, and we are deeply satisfied with it.

In conclusion, allow me to wish you God’s help in your service of the Church of Christ and to wish well-being and prosperity to your God-saved flock and to the entire Hungarian people.

With love in Christ,

Alexy II
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

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