The Paths of Organization

The parish of Hajdúdorog recognized that appeals to the Greek Catholic faithful of other towns and villages would not be sufficient, and that they needed to unite with them and take their cause before the nation. In the petition addressed to the Diet of 1868 they had requested permission for the Hungarian Greek Catholics to hold a national meeting. This national congress was summoned to meet in Hajdúdorog on 16 April 1868. The invitation clearly indicated the intentions of the organizers.


“Since our awakening to our national identity, the heart of every Hungarian Byzantine Rite believer has been burdened by the knowledge that in places where we have lived for 1,000 years and in the churches built by our own sweat, or the sweat of our ancestors, our dear Hungarian mother tongue has been excluded with the unjustified disregard of the fundamental principles of the Eastern Church. And who would not become distraught that our insistence on our ancient rituals leads to the result that in our Homeland every national minority follows our ancient ceremonies in their own language, we alone, who constitute the original settlers, are forced to worship God in a foreign tongue.”


Thirty-three parishes sent representatives to the Congress. A total of 220 representatives, including twenty parish priests, attended the Congress. An additional nineteen parishes and eleven priests indicated in writing that they were prepared to accept the decisions of the congress. The meeting opened with the Divine Liturgy entirely in the Hungarian language, under the leadership of Archdean György Szabó, the parish priest of Hajdúdorog. After consultations, they formulated the achievable goals: 1. the establishment of a Hungarian bishopric in Hajdúdorog as a seat; 2. the translation into Hungarian and the publication of the liturgical books at public expense; 3. sanctification of Hungarian as a liturgical language. The congress established a Standing Executive Committee and elected Lajos Farkas, the lieutenant of Hajdúdorog, who had obtained considerable merits for his participation in the organization of the congress, as the head. István Szilvásy, the chief notary of Csongrád County, became the notary of the committee. Szilvásy represented the parish of Makó, whose parish priest Sándor Kabay was forbidden by Bishop Papp Szilágyi from attending the Congress.

The Standing Executive Committee sent delegations to Ungvár, Pest, and Esztergom. István Pankovics, Bishop of Munkács (1866-1874) gave the delegation a warm reception but would not allow them to sing even the “Our Father”  in Hungarian  language during the Divine Liturgy performed by the bishop in the cathedral. The parish of Hajdúdorog was very disappointed in the unsupportive behavior of the prelate. At the same time, there can be little doubt that the bishop would have been easily attacked, if had allowed in his own cathedral the use of an unauthorized non-liturgical language.


In Pest, the commander-in-chief of the Hajdú region Gábor Sillye, a Calvinist, led the delegation and presented petitions to Count Gyula Andrássy, the Prime Minister, and Károly Szentiványi, the oldest representative in the Parliament, who received them in the presence of Ferenc Deák. The delegates were pleased to hear that “the Wise Man of the Nation” [Ferenc Deák] had declared their movement to be just, dignified, and a sacred cause of the nation. Indeed, he urged the delegates not to request but forthrightly to demand. In Esztergom, the prince primate János Simor (1867-1891) also received the delegation. He enquired about the liturgical use of the Hungarian language and indicated that the establishment of a Hungarian eparchy would be a relatively easy goal to achieve but the acceptance of Hungarian as a liturgical language would be a rather long process.

Despite the favorable reception of the delegations the petitions once again remained unanswered. During the process of making enquiries and urging prompt action it became obvious once again that the issue of the employment of the Hungarian language in the Liturgy caused serious fears among the Catholic ecclesiastical leadership. This was made unambiguously clear to Lajos Farkas by István Lipovnicky, a Catholic bishop and advisor to the Ministry of Public Education and Religion, who in his memoirs quoted the advisor as saying, ”Who would guarantee that if today the Divine Service in the Hungarian language is permitted for us, then tomorrow the Hungarian speaking parish following the Latin rite in Komárom will not request exactly the same for themselves? This, however, would be impossible.”


The Congress of Hajdúdorog, therefore, connected the issue of the use of the Hungarian language Liturgy with the need for the establishment of an eparchy for the Hungarian Greek Catholics. Lajos Farkas wrote with conviction in the Kárpáti Hírnök [Carpathian herald], which was published in Ungvár and had been founded and edited by Károly Mészáros, a jurist and historian originally from Hajdúdorog,

“… despite all of our struggles we will not be able quickly to obtain the right to use our national language in all of the Hungarian speaking churches as long as we are unsuccessful in our efforts to establish a Greek Catholic eparchy for those with Hungarian as their mother tongue. Such a bishop would be able to govern all of the Hungarian churches and should be obligated to immediately take up the task of translating the necessary religious books into Hungarian and to use his eparchial authority to install the Hungarian language in every church under his jurisdiction.”

The behavior of István Pankovics, Bishop of Munkács, during his canonical visitation in September 1871 convinced the parish of Hajdúdorog that, despite the considerable obstacles, the realization of their goals was at hand. He did not object to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Hungarian language in his presence. Indeed, during the sevices the bishop even declared that he would consider becoming Hungary’s first Hungarian Greek Catholic bishop as the most rewarding responsibility of his life.