The Foundation of the Apostolic Exarchate of Miskolc

The peace treaties after the end of World War I transformed the map of East-Central Europe. Since those who made the decisions did not take the perspectives of ecclesiastical government into consideration, on a number of occasions they separated parishes from their bishop’s seat. The Apostolic Holy See tried to alleviate difficulties arising from this situation by setting up temporary units for ecclesiastical government. In establishing these, Rome was led by the view that the parishes separated from their bishop’s seats need to be governed. At the same time, due to the uncertain political situation, no final decisions should be made concerning the division of the affected eparchies. Twenty parishes from the Eparchy of Eperjes and one from Munkács remained in Hungary after Trianon. The Apostolic Holy See decided their fate during the summer of 1924, taking into account the previously mentioned consideration and also the identities of the affected bishops. The heavily anti-Catholic Czechoslovakian government desired to remove not only the bishops, both Latin and Greek, who had been appointed during the “Hungarian era” but also, through the support of the “schismatic” movement, tried to weaken the Greek Catholic Church. István Novák, Bishop of Eperjes, in response to the constant attacks left his bishop’s seat and entrusted the administration of his eparchy to a protosyncellus even before the new national boundaries had been designated. The Pope in 1920 relieved the bishop, who had settled in Budapest. Despite his youth he  rejected the assistance offered by the Holy See and decided on retirement. In contrast, Antal Papp, Bishop of Munkács, remained in Ungvár. For political reasons and similarly to most of his fellow bishops, the Czechoslovakian government refused to accept him, which reduced the effectiveness of his pastoral and administrative activities. In addition, the Apostolic Holy See was troubled by the successes of the “schismatic” movement. The Holy See decided that bishop Antal Papp, who had personally visited Rome in 1924 and provided an account of the conditions in eparchy, could no longer control the situation that had developed. In 1923, Czechoslovakia and the Apostolic Holy See established diplomatic relations, and as a result an Apostolic nuncio, arrived to take up his post in Prague. Consequently, the decisions of Pope Pius XI, concerning the Eparchy of Munkács and its bishop, were communicated to those affected by Francesco Marmaggi, Prague nuncio (1923-1925). The State Secretary instructed Marmaggi nuncio to promulgate the decretal of 4 June 1924 in which Pope Pius IX appointed Antal Papp, Titular Archbishop of Küzike, created an exarchate for the parishes of the Eparchies of Eperjes and Munkács that had remained in Hungary, and appointed as its head, effective 1 July 1924, the newly named titular archbishop. Furthermore, the Pope declared the Eparchy of Munkács to be vacant, effective the same date.

The decree stunned governmental circles in Budapest because, contrary to previous practice, the decisions regarding parishes in Hungary were made without consulting the Hungarian government. According to the view in Budapest, which the press amply publicized, the Holy See, with this step, had taken the side of hostile Czechoslovakia and against Hungary. The Hungarian authorities attempted to prevent the decree from being implemented by refusing to provide a passport for archbishop Antal Papp, despite his repeated requests, and based on political calculations encouraged him to wait until the Czechoslovakian authorities expelled him.

The establishment of the Apostolic Exarchate also surprised the clergy of the affected parishes because under the leadership of Endre Mocsár, Dean and priest of Homrogd, they supported their attachment to the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog, or the formation of an forane vicariate under it’s jurisdiction. This effort was also embraced by Antal Vaskovics, who governed the twenty parishes from Eperjes as a protosyncellus and further served as a priest in Múcsony. In contrast, the former teaching superintendent of the Eparchy of Eperjes, István Szémán (1880-1960), after 1934 Szántay-Szémán, who had moved to Hungary, argued in favor of the separation in a memoir to the prince primate. He believed the separation from Hajdúdorog should be maintained because this served better the preservation of the temporary nature of the situation that had developed and corresponded with the views of the Holy See.

The organization of the newly created Apostolic Exarchate remained delayed as long as the situation around the appointed administrator remained unresolved. The government did not wish to acquiesce in the actions of the Holy See and the Czechoslovakian state by providing permission for archbishop Antal Papp to enter Hungary and considered waiting for the expulsion to be the best course. This policy would draw international attention to the oppressive practices of Czechoslovakia and the responsibility for the prelate could also be diverted to Czechoslovakia in international forums. During all this time Archbishop Antal Papp enjoyed the hospitality of his successor Péter Gebé and understood that the situation could not be reversed and despite the efforts of the Hungarian government, he would have to leave the territory of Czechoslovakia. At the same time, he also knew that he could not ignore the interests of the Hungarian government because his work in Hungary and the acceptance of the Apostolic Exarchate depended on the Hungarian government. On 1 September 1925, the archbishop received an ultimatum from the Czechoslovakian authorities to leave the country. The Hungarian government, with the assistance of Lorenzo Schioppa, Budapest nuncio, and bypassing formal diplomatic channels notified him that when he was expelled the Hungarian border control officials would issue a formal protest but they would not obstruct his entry into the country. After these events, archbishop Antal Papp was expelled and sent across the border with considerable police presence and press attention.

The archbishop first went to Budapest, then to Miskolc, and on 27 October 1927 assumed the direction of the Apostolic Exarchate He established the consultative body, which served as a substitute for the senate, and whose members became István Szémán, protosyncellus general, Antal Vaskovics, priest of Múcsony, Igor Konstantin Zapotoczky, priest of Abaujszántó, and Elek Kovaliczky, parish priest of Felsővadász. After some hesitation the Hungarian government agreed that he could keep the income from the Tapolca abbey, which he had enjoyed as personal income as the Bishop of Munkács.

The first task in the organization of the Exarchate was the selection of a seat. The town of Miskolc would have been appropriate in every way but it was under the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog. Consequently, the advisory body, with the support of archbishop Antal Papp asked the Holy See in a letter for the transference of the Miskolc parish to the Apostolic Exarchate and the elevation of the church on Buza Square to the rank of cathedral. The perspective that had led to the creation of the Apostolic Exarchate, in this case, became an obstacle to the development of the new ecclesiastical governing units. Namely, the Holy See rejected the request of the counselors by noting that the temporary nature of the Exarchate did not warrant an expansion of its sphere of competence. The Holy See maintained this position even during Administrator Antal Papp’s subsequent efforts in a similar vein in 1929 and in 1938. Historical events, such as the modification of the borders before World War II, justified the position of the Apostolic Holy See. By 1945 five new parishes had been added, and the territory of the Exarchate grew not only due to natural increase but also because of the modification of Hungary’s borders. After the First Vienna Award in 1938, the territories that returned to Hungary included six parishes of the District of the Kassa Deanery of the Eparchy of Eperjes. Later, in 1939, after Ruthenia was recovered, five additional parishes came under the jurisdiction of the Exarchate. Simultaneously, Rudabányácska and Beregdaróc, which were originally a part of the Eparchy of Munkács - at the time the Exarchate was set up they were affiliated churches – now returned to their original eparchy. As a result of the border settlements after World War II these parishes returned to the Eparchy of Eperjes, and Rudabányácska and Beregdaróc, which again remained in Hungary were reassigned to the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog.