I stand for God, for the Church and for Hungary. This responsibility has been imposed upon me by the fate of the nation which stands alone, an orphan in the whole world. Compared with the sufferings of my people, my own fate is of no importance.
József Cardinal Mindszenty, Primate of Hungary, 1948
The Hungarian Revolt of 1956 was an extremely important turning point in the Cold War. It demonstrated to the world that Eastern Europe was not, and never would be, Communist but rather merely territory held down by the force of the Red Army. This spirit of resistance lived on in each of the countries in the Warsaw Pact from the first imposition of Communist governments at the end of the World War II to the fall of the Communist states at the end of the eighties. It was a magnificent struggle that is too little celebrated in the West.
The heart and soul of the struggle in Hungary was one of the great men of the 20th Century: József Cardinal Mindszenty, primate of Hungary. Imprisoned by the pro-Nazi government in Hungary during World War II, he was imprisoned, tortured and condemned in a show trial by the puppet Communist regime after World War II. Freed by Hungarian patriots during the Hungarian revolt, he quickly joined the revolt. After it was crushed he took refuge in the American embassy in Budapest where he stayed for 15 years, a symbol of the unconquerable spirit of his beloved Hungary. Shamefully, in my view, the Vatican compromised with the Communist regime, annulling the excommunication imposed by Pius XII on all involved with the trial of Mindszenty, and calling him “a victim of history” rather than “a victim of Communism”. Mindszenty traveled to Vienna rather than Rome, upset at the suggestion of the Vatican that he should retire and live in Rome. He was stripped of his titles by Pope Paul VI in 1973, although the Pope did not fill the primacy until after the Cardinal died in 1975. The Church in Hungary has launched a strong effort to have the Cardinal proclaimed a saint, and I pray that it is soon crowned with deserved success.
Below is the public domain movie Guilty of Treason 1949, which tells the story of the trial of Mindszenty by the Communists. There was also the 1956 movie The Prisoner starring Alec Guinness, a heavily fictionalized account of his trial, which the Cardinal intensely disliked.