The following article was originally published in the Folha de S.Paulo, on February 10, 1974. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. –Ed.
In these sad days marked by his removal from the Archdiocese of Esztergom, Cardinal Mindszenty once again proved that he is a good shepherd, a genuine and righteous representative of the Good Shepherd par excellence. To fight against Communism, which has reduced his sheep into spiritual and material misery, the Hungarian Cardinal has just suffered the last and perhaps most painful sacrifice.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of his incarceration by the Communists. A famous photograph shows him in the dock with a terrified but unbreakable gaze, resolved to fulfill his duty to the end. The whole world saw that photograph and shuddered in horror and admiration. Then came the rapid interval of the anticommunist uprising. And Cardinal Mindszenty’s long captivity at the American embassy then began. A captivity in which—O mystery!—he was forbidden even to contact the building’s inhabitants. However, Cardinal Mindszenty remained standing like a solitary column amid the ruins of his homeland, maintaining with his conduct the religious and national grandeur of the kingdom of Saint Stephen and preparing, with his example, the resurrection of his people.
At least the Cardinal was comforted by Pius XII’s courageous, steadfast, and continuous support. And he obviously knew he was an object of tender admiration throughout Christendom. On that firm foundation, the intrepid column stood unharmed over the years, weathering all storms.
The measure of suffering that Providence demanded of him seemed to have been fulfilled. His holocaust would end in that tragic solitude amid universal admiration.
Yet there was still something he had to give: A good shepherd gives everything, even his own life. Like Our Lord, “having loved his own…he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).
It was still necessary for the great pillar to endure a fading of that admiration and to sustain at its very base the greatest of blows.
After the death of Pius XII, a growing tendency to collaborate with Communism in broad Catholic sectors gradually erased admiration for the great Cardinal. Finally, from the throne of Saint Peter came the request that he renounce his great isolation in ruined Hungary and accept the triviality of a comfortable exile. The great Cardinal obeyed. Peter’s voice had never shown itself more powerful than when it placed the towering man on his knees, a man whom the combined pressure of Moscow and Washington had been unable to bend.
What mysteries led Cardinal Mindszenty to leave all alone from his tower and suddenly appear in Vienna? No one knows. The fact is that, once again as a solitary column, he settled in the Austrian capital, casting his benign shadow over the border of his homeland nearby.
O strength, O grandeur! Even his shadow disturbed the vile tyrants who rule Hungary. The column had to be felled.
Then, the most sacred hands on earth shook the column and cast it, broken, to the ground. Cardinal Mindszenty is no longer Archbishop of Esztergom.
The sacrifice has been consummated; the shepherd has given everything.
But, O madness of human illusions! If the Archbishop has fallen when he lost his diocese, his moral figure as the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep has risen all the way to the stars. And from this grandiose figure all of us, genuine Catholics, anticommunist Catholics around the world draw invincible encouragement, strength, and hope. And our acclamation rises to the great victim: Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia, Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri (Judith 15:10). You are the glory of Jerusalem; you are the joy of the faithful, you are the honor of those who continue the sacrosanct struggle.