Hungary’s communist leader Kádár summoned priest before dying

November 23, 2010

kadarHungary’s last communist leader János Kádár met a priest at his own request shortly before he died, former Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh revealed on Tuesday, two decades after Kadar’s death.

“Aunt Mariska (Kádár‘s wife) called me: ‘My husband wants a priest’ she said,” Németh, who headed the country’s last Communist-era government in 1988-1990, told Reuters.

(Photo: Hungarian leader János Kádár in London, November 1, 1985/B. Smith)

“I still remember the Catholic priest whom I found, he was a short man called Bíró, I think,” he added.

“I don’t know whether Kádár atoned to him or what he told him, you can’t ask a priest about such things. There is no way to find out now — everybody has died since.”

Németh said this happened in late May or early June, 1989. “This (Kádár‘s request) struck all of us as a complete surprise,” he said.

kadar 2Kádár came to power in 1956, following the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union and the Soviet invasion to restore communist rule. He died on July 6, 1989, on the day that Hungary’s Supreme Court rehabilitated Imre Nagy, Hungary’s prime minister during the uprising who was hanged in 1958 .

(Photo: Hungarian protesters on a tank in Budapest during the uprising against the Soviet-supported Hungarian communist regime in 1956/Laszlo Almasi)

Churches were allowed to exist in the former Soviet bloc but the communist regimes were hostile to religion. The head of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal József Mindszenty, lived as a political refugee in the United States embassy in Budapest from 1956 to 1971, when the government let him leave for exile in Austria.

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A recent documentary film, ‘The Last Word’ looked at Kadar’s final speech to the Hungarian Communist Party’s Congress in 1989, in which he revealed his mental turmoil over the events of 1956-58. In it, he came very close to making an apology, but ended up only justifying his actions. It contains an interesting commentary by a Hungarian historian on Kadar’s mental state, as well as the original footage from Nagy’s trial. I also met a relative of Mindszenty, who explained how his family suffered during the time he was in both internal and external exile.

Posted by HotRedPaprika | Report as abusive

When a Quaker group visited Budapest in the Autumn of 1988, we met (somewhat covertly) a Catholic group called the Bulanyi Fellowship, who had kept their faith alive outside the ‘official’ Church. The Piarists also played a major role in keeping Catholic Secondary Schools going.

Posted by HotRedPaprika | Report as abusive

I think we can only hope that Janos Kadar made his last confession and was welcomed into Paradise by Our Lord.

It is only through the mercy of God that He lets us wait until the last minute to accept our repentence.

Posted by MaidJeanne | Report as abusive