Organizing an Eparchy under the Shadow of Tragedies

Even the moments of celebration, however, were overshadowed by events that pointed toward serious problems in the future. Immediately after the decision was made dozens of telegrams of protest and abuse burst forth from the Romanian eparchies, especially from the Eparchy of Nagyvárad led by Demetriu Radu, and inundated the office of the Vienna nuncio. A few weeks later, the parishes newly attached to the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog could express their protest through form letters in Romanian and Italian prepared by the Romanian bishop. It is instructive that when the protest letters to bishop Radu were not form letters, they were often in the Hungarian language, and, with the exception, of their clergymen, the authors were not even able to write their names in Romanian. The Romanian press also joined the organized protest. The emotionally overheated articles urged the bishops, together with the priests and the believers, to resist. They called upon the Holy See to rescind the “killer bull” and threatened to split with Rome. In some places, they obstructed the organization of the eparchy by returning the first circular letter of the apostolic administrator and interfering with the work of the assigned priests. Indeed, they even abused Mihály Jaczkovics, the Forane Protosyncellus of Hajdúdorog (1911-1913), in order to impede the reassignment of the parishes. Under the leadership of Vasile Lucaciu, a small group in disguise visited the Greek Catholic churches in Budapest, Hajdúdorog, Szatmárnémeti, and Debrecen. The members of the group participated in the Saint and Divine Liturgies and prepared protocolls on how they had been celebrated. In these, they stated that in defiance of the prohibition by the Holy See the Hungarian language had been employed in the Liturgy in the above mentioned churches. Luciacu personally took these protocolls to Rome.

The appointment of a Bishop of Hajdúdorog, and perhaps the revision of the bull founding the eparchy, as soon as possible appeared to be the best way to resolve the conflicts and ease tensions.

 

On 21 April 1913, King Franz Joseph appointed István Miklósy (1857-1937), parish priest of Sátoraljaújhely and Archdean of Zemplén, as the first bishop of the new eparchy. The elected bishop was a board member of the National Commission and had participated in the Roman pilgrimage. He selected as his episcopal motto, “Success is rooted in persistence,” with which he referred to the Hungarian Greek Catholics’ ultimately successful struggle of several decades for their own eparchy. He was consecrated in Hajdúdorog on 5 October 1913. Gyula Drohobeczky, Bishop of Körös (1891-1919), assisted by Ágoston Fischer Colbrie, Bishop of Kassa (1907-1925) and József Lányi, consecrated Bishop of Tinin, Canon of Nagyvárad, and an intimate of Franz Ferdinand, celebrated the consecration and enthronement ceremony. 136 priests participated in the consecration, a number of whom were Romanians. The papal confirmation bull was read aloud by Artúr Boér, Romanian Dean of Magyarkászon. On the day of the consecration Antal Papp, apostolic administrator, issued his final circular letter to the clergy of the new eparchy, in which he turned over the government with the following words,

“Just as I have expressed my heartfelt thanks to all of you, I would kindly like to ask all of you also to give your persistence, trust, and loyalty to your new bishop the Right Honorable and Very Reverend István Miklósy, as the first bishop of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog, who today for the first time has taken on the burdens of the gospel, which accompany the episcopal dignity, and who beginning with today has become the father to you all and has been betrothed to the newest eparchy.”

 

Bishop Miklósy appointed Mihály Jaczkovics his protosyncellus and János Slepkovszky, priest in Nyírpazony, as his secretary. With the receipt of the official documents, the autonomous life of the new eparchy had begun.

 

Between the time of bishop Miklósy’s appointment and consecration, the Holy See and the Hungarian government agreed to a partial revision of the bull founding the new eparchy. Russia, Serbia and Romania all formally protested the establishment of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog at the Holy See. A re-examination was deemed necessary by State Secretary Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val for the easing of international tensions. For reasons touching on both domestic and foreign policy, the Prime Minister István Tisza sought an accommodation with the Romanians in Hungary. The establishment of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog became a part of the negotiations. During the discussions, which stretched into 1914, both the prime minister and Béla Jankovics, Minister of Religion and Public Education, took the position that the revision need to be based on the principle of reciprocity. The parishes in which the Romanian population constituted the majority need to be returned, while independent parishes need to be organized in those places where Hungarian Greek Catholics lived in large numbers in Romanian eparchies, and these need to be placed under the jurisdiction of the  Eparchy of Hajdúdorog. This, however, was rejected by the Romanian bishops. The revision became sidetracked by World War I, and the peace imposed after the war made the revision irrelevant because the Romanians gained far more than they would have under the revision. The Vienna nuncio did not want to hand over the original copy of the bull Christifideles graeci to bishop Miklósy, and as a result it remained at the nunciature. Later, together with other documents, it was transferred to the Secret Archive of the Vatican, where it remains to this day.

 

The first and most pressing issue in the organization of the eparchy was the designation of a place for the bishop’s seat. The bull establishing the eparchy named Hajdúdorog as the seat; and, due to its undeniable sacrifices and efforts, general public opinion expected that bishop Miklósy will settle in the town. Naturally the community of Hajdúdorog also felt the same way, and, on 12 September 1911, they indicated their desire to host the seat of the bishop, as well as their willingness to make additional sacrifices. At the same time it was also undeniable that in terms of logistics, Hajdúdorog was at a disadvantage. It was difficult to reach from most of the parishes and had no significant cultural institutions. In contrast, the three towns of Debrecen, Nyíregyháza, and Nagykároly enjoyed advantages both in regard to accessibility and educational institutions. The Royal Hungarian University opened in Debrecen at that time; and, above all according to the concept of the National Commission, a Greek Catholic Theological faculty should have been established as a part of this university. A teacher training institute was planned for Nyíregyháza, which would also have been suitable for the foundation of Greek Catholic higher education. A Scolopian (piarist) Secondary School and Residence were located in Nagykároly. The latter two towns campaigned to become the place of residence for the bishop and offered to help erect the necessary institutional structure. The majority of the clergy of the eparchy supported Nyíregyháza, and soon the National Commission also came out in favor of this solution. Bishop Miklósy decided to postpone a final decision on his permanent residence and chose a temporary seat. This decision seemed justified because the government had agreed to provide the necessary institutions but the details had yet to be ironed out. The establishment of an institutional structure needed to be preceded by lengthy discussions, which the bishop did not wish to influence through the hasty selection of a place of official residence. In the summer of 1914, bishop Miklósy selected Debrecen as his place of temporary official residence for the next three years. He rented rooms for this purpose in the commercial and industrial chamber building, and after his consecration in Hajdúdorog he formally and ceremoniously took up residence in the town.

After the simple, albeit temporary, solution to the problem of a place for the official residence, it appeared that the organization of the eparchy could no longer be impeded. Slowly, order and peace returned to the parishes that had been reassigned from the Romanian eparchies. This peaceful condition, however, only lasted for a couple of months.

On 21 February 1914 a letter arrived at the bishop’s residence from Czernowitz and under the pseudonym “Anna Kovács.” The letter informed the bishop that the writer had sent a package containing 100 crowns, a gold-plated church chandelier, and a leopard skin. The twenty kilogram package arrived on 23 February. János Slepkovszky, the bishop’s secretary, tried to open the package with an axe, and its contents then exploded. An explosion totaling approximately 2,000 times the atmospheric pressure knocked out walls, tore through the ceiling, and ripped to pieces Protosyncellus Mihály Jaczkovics and Secretary János Slepkovszky. It also fatally wounded Dr. Sándor Csatth, the bishopric’s lawyer, who lived for another hour after the explosion. József Dávid, a law student, as well as Elek Kriskó and Miklós Bihon, diocesan notaries, were very severely injured. Several inhabitants of the house also suffered light injuries. Bishop István Miklósy, who had been summoned to a telephone call in another room before the explosion, escaped with slight injuries.

The bombing completely shocked public opinion in Hungary, and 30,000 people attended the funeral of the victims on 25 February. The funeral service was led by bishop Miklósy, and János Papp, parish priest of Hajdúböszörmény, gave the funeral sermon. The entire country paid its respects to the victims. The bishop received condolences from all over the country and from abroad. Contemporaries noted that bishop Radu only expressed his condolences days after the assassination and only after he had been instructed by archbishop Mihályi to do so. Radu, himself, would later lose his life in the bombing attack on the Romanian Senate in 1920.

The investigation, which extended to Romania as well, quickly revealed that the package had been mailed by two adventurers: the Romanian Ilie Cătărău and the Russian Timoftei Kirilov. Since both were connected to the Russian and the Romanian secret police, it was obvious that they had not acted on their own. The outbreak of World War I prevented their arrest and a complete investigation of the event. In 1937, Cătărău in San Francisco confessed his part in the bombing on his death bed. The goal of the assassination had been to destabilize the internal peace of the Habsburg monarchy, which was particularly the interest of Russia. The well-known “Skizma trial” of Máramaros, which also had Russian secret police connections, was being held during these same weeks. Since the tensions between Hungarians and Romanians, which had arisen during the establishment of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog, had seemed to begin to subside, a bloody bombing assassination, which could be traced to Romanian perpetrators and Romania, appeared to be a useful instrument for the inflammation of conflicts between the nationalities and consequently the weakening of the monarchy. A few months later another assassination, the murder of Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo led to the First World War, which would end with fatal consequences for both Hungary and for the Hungarian Greek Catholics.

The bombing in Debrecen raised once again the issue of the location of the bishop’s seat. Bishop Miklósy consulted with Prime Minister István Tisza and the Minister of Religion and Public Education on 21 March. During the discussions they decided that the bishop’s seat should move to Nyíregyháza. Until the move could be completed, the bishop would move into the home of Ferenc Gróh, the priest of the St. Anna parish, who had invited him. Later, he rented a home in Miklós Street. He endured the tribulations of the bombing with enormous spiritual strength. While public opinion unambiguously held the Romanians responsible, bishop Miklósy tried to ease tensions through his statements. He declared, “A whole race cannot be held responsible for the act of a few depraved criminals.” He could have moved back into the undamaged rooms of the Chamber of Industry building but to soothe the fears of the other inhabitants, he chose a different abode instead. He tried to turn his attention and energies as soon as possible to the organization of the eparchy. In May, the first canons were appointed. According to the bull, which founded the eparchy, the senate consisted of six members. Tivadar Damjanics, Jenő Bányay and Elek Mitrovics, the first three members of the cathedral senate, were named by King Franz Joseph I. on 20 May. A few days later the five archdeaneries were set up for Székesegyház, Zemplén County, Szabolcs County, Szatmár County, and the Székely region. On the last day of June the twenty-four member diocesan senate was formed and met at the school of the parish of  Debrecen. On 2 July, the first seminarists of the eparchy were admitted: Miklós Bihon, István Bihon, István Szklár, Miklós Bába, István Mitró, Béla Bodnár, Mihály Macaveiu, Sándor Mihálka, Sándor Ruttkay, János Sereghy, Endre Sztankaninecz, Miklós Bóka, and József Turzán, and Miklós Volovcsák, who had started his theological studies at the Ungvár Seminary as a seminarist in the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog. On 12 June, according to the Julian calendar the celebration of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, the first consecration of priests took place in Debrecen. Jenő Székely, János Botei, József Souvak and Miklós Vályi became the first newly consecrated priests of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog.

 

On 19 September 1914, bishop Miklósy notified the priests of his eparchy in a circular letter that he was moving to Nyíregyháza, “My home until the construction of a bishop’s residence will be in the appropriately refurbished guest palace of the parish. I have set up Chancery Office in the west wing of the same building.”

On 31 July 1915, bishop Miklósy appointed Gyula Hubán, priest in Szatmárnémeti, to be the protosyncellus for the governing of the parishes of the Székely region and transferred from the Metropolia of Fogaras. The organization of the forane vicariate had already been begun by Antal Papp, the administrator, who had appointed Protosyncellus Jaczkovics with the selection of an appropriate location for a seat. Based on his knowledge of the area, the protosyncellus selected Marosvásárhely. Later, bishop Miklósy accepted this decision, and so this town became the seat of the Hungarian Greek Catholic vicariate for the Székely region.