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Remembering Hungary '56; a John Paul II Legacy

Conference Recalls Efforts by Pius XII

By Catherine Smibert

ROME, OCT. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Heads of state from across former communist Europe are in Hungary this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Budapest uprising against the Soviet regime.

Some of the commemorative events for the occasion actually began here in Rome. A conference was held at the Hungarian Academy which concluded with the screening of a film on the events of 1956. In addition, a remembrance wreath was placed at the refuge which housed the first Hungarian immigrants to Italy.

The Hungarian Section of Vatican Radio also pitched in with a round-table discussion that examined the political and ecclesiastical lessons of the Hungarian experience.

Speakers on the panel included Luca Pignataro, a scholar of modern history, who presented the facts of the revolution. General Piero Laporta explored the military aspects of the uprising, and Giorgio Cirillo, director of RAI International, spoke on "The Italian Response to the Revolution."

They each acknowledged the courageous steps Hungarians took Oct. 23-Nov. 4, 1956, as they tried to topple their Soviet masters and the Iron Curtain then in place around Europe.

The hopes of regaining freedom proved to be short-lived, and the backlash left more than 3,000 dead. Thousands more fled the nation in search of a better future.

What especially struck me through all the presentations was the Vatican's obvious support for the freedom-loving Hungarians.

Father Adam Somorjai, a Hungarian Benedictine, summed it up in his intervention on the theme "The Encyclicals of Pius XII Dedicated to the Events in Hungary's History."

Father Somorjai, who works in the Hungarian Section of the Vatican Secretary of State, explained how "during these two short weeks of the uprising, Pius XII published three short encyclicals."

"In the first, entitled 'Luctuosissimi Eventus,' he appealed to the Christian world to pray for Hungary," said the Benedictine.

Then, eight days into the conflict, when it appeared the uprising against the Russian superpower might succeed, "Laetamur Admodum" was promulgated. This encyclical, recalled Father Somorjai, "speaks of the Pope's joy that the revolution is gaining success."

The third, "Datis Nuperrime," was dated Nov. 5, the very day of the Soviet crackdown. It too asked for prayers.

Pope Pius XII highlighted his concern by speaking directly to the Hungarian people in a special broadcast transmitted via Vatican Radio. He assured them that God would be their strength and safeguard.

Into the microphone his voice boomed: "May the name of God, fount of all rights, justice and freedom, echo once again in parliament, in the streets, at home and in the workplace, on the lips of intellectuals and workers, in the press and on radio ..." But few in Hungary heard the broadcast.

"In the first 33 years after the events in '56, there was public silence about these encyclicals and what Pius XII had been doing," Father Somorjai recalled. "It wasn't until 1989 with the 'annus memorabilis' that we were finally able to speak about them openly."

Now, 50 years after the uprising, the Hungarian bishops' conference is repeating Pius XII's call for prayers for their nation and have dedicated 2006 to the intention. Benedict XVI reflected this in his message sent with his envoy, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, for the commemorative celebration in Budapest.

"The Church has always been a driving force for truth in the nation and the Eastern bloc," said Father Somorjai. "It's right in the forefront of working for a new harmony."

This is important, the Hungarian priest added, because even recent unrest in his country is being compared with '56.

"In our country, history is not over and isn't closed, and harmony has not returned," he noted. "Though this revolution gained no direct victory, the great discussion in Hungary continues as to who has the heritage of '56 -- the Right or the Left?"

Speaking with him after his presentation, I sought more clarification of what the true Hungary is today.

"In Hungary we have no one 'truth,'" he told me. "For a number of years we've had two parallel 'truths' -- one of the Right and one of the Left. There is propaganda fed to the West by both the socialist and liberal left and this propaganda does not speak about the reality of the situation."

It seems that Hungarians are wondering just how much better their circumstances are, in these 17 years after the collapse of communism. There is an obvious confusion about who is running the country, given the disruption within the main party, the privatization under way, the fraud and the lies. Serious reforms are required, and the Hungarians might need help to carry them out.

Consequently, Father Somorjai challenges the people of the world to put Hungary and the Eastern European experience back into their political and educational curricula.

"It's not a country in the first pages of history books, which is part of the European battle against neo-liberalism," he said. "We should study the facts and choose our sources of information wisely so we can really learn and move forward together."

* * *

Young at 25

Pope John Paul II inspired the nature and name of a vast number of institutes and organizations. And among them is one for which he himself approved the provisions and statutes.

Last weekend, members of the John Paul II Foundation gathered in Rome to celebrate their silver anniversary and discern their direction for the future.

Their commemoration opened with a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and a procession to the tomb of John Paul II. The group went from here to their "John Paul II Pilgrims Home" for the special blessing and unveiling of a memorial plaque for their benefactor.

Presiding over this event was one of the foundation's great supporters, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit.

"One of the great gifts this foundation brings," said the Polish-American cardinal, "is carrying on that wonderful exchange of faith and culture that our late Holy Father traditionally talked about and an aspect of which our present Holy Father speaks so lovingly."

Indeed, in his meeting with the 800-strong group in the Hall of Blessings this week, Benedict XVI recalled some of the standout elements of the foundation's work as inspired by his "beloved predecessor."

The director general of the foundation, Father Stefan Wylezek, said the group was struck by the generous amount of time the Pope spent with them.

"It was very emotional for us to hear the sincerity of the Pope as he complimented our work and underscored the inspiration of John Paul II," he told me afterward. "I believe he could see the presence of the spirit of our founder among those who came to share in the anniversary celebrations."

According to this priest, Benedict XVI listened to each individual report of the foundation's 40 presidents from its various chapters in 16 nations.

Each focused on his work as relative to his own local community according to the aims of the foundation: to study the teachings of John Paul II and to educate youth.

Some of the best stories came from John Paul II's homeland. Father Wylezek, a diocesan priest in Wadowice, explained how programs are now in place where John Paul II taught -- the Catholic University of Lublin -- to sponsor students from the Eastern bloc countries.

"We have 174 young people from places such as Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, etc., studying in exchange programs paid for by us," he said. "Pope John Paul always told us to 'teach, teach, teach and invest in people,' which is why we continue."

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz reiterated the significance of this concept in his homily last Sunday when celebrating Mass for the pilgrims. The archbishop of Krakow and longtime private secretary of John Paul II is now the president of the foundation.

Father Wylezek recounted how Cardinal Dziwisz "compared the rewards for the future of our nations who may have strong, well-formed intellectuals to govern public policy as opposed to mere financial exchanges which are limited more to the here and now, and just this planet, instead of beyond, in heaven."

Speaking in what's come to be known as Rome's Church of the Divine Mercy in Borgo Santo Spirito, Cardinal Dziwisz assured the group that now, more than ever, they could rely on the assistance John Paul II as "he works for us from the home of our heavenly Father."

And if anything could increase the vigor or motivation behind this organization, it had to be Sunday evening's international concert held in the late Pope's honor.

Father Wylezek said: "Hearing his poetry, listening to music, seeing images of his life projected onto screen, then juxtaposed with those of our activities, brought tears to our eyes and more determination to our hearts to carry on his work and make it known as best we can."

* * *

Catherine Smibert can be reached at zenit.org.


  Словарь Яндекс.Лингво

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