The Path of Bishop Miklós Dudás

 

After the death of bishop Miklósy, the Holy See immediately began discussions with the Hungarian government and solicited recommendations from influential Hungarian ecclesiastical leaders. Ferenc Luttor, advisor of the Hungarian Embassy to the Holy See, supported the appointment of Antal Papp but the Eastern Congregation disregarded this advice due to the advanced age of the archbishop. The Eastern Congregation requested opinions on István Szántay-Szémán, which reflected well on his reputation. The opinions arriving in Rome on him were of necessity brief and because he was a married cleric, his candidacy could not be considered seriously. From among the Basilians, the names János Liki and András Dudás came into consideration. The latter, it was noted, was well-known by the diocesan clergy, who would support his elevation. The wisdom and virtues of János Imre Liki was acknowledged by everyone but he was less well known because during these years he was assigned by his order to be mainly active in Czechoslovakia. The Holy See appointed bishop Bazil Takács, who was the leader of the Greek Catholics living in the United States. According to the traditional diplomatic procedure, the bishops were selected in the following manner. The representative of the government sent a list of the names of the acceptable candidates to the Budapest nunciate. The Holy See made its recommendation after examining this list. On 17 December 1937, Foreign Minister Kálmán Kánya personally handed the list containing the names Bazil Takács and Miklós Dudás to Angelo Rotta, nuncio (1930-1945). On the next day, however, István Csáky, the Chief of Staff of the Foreign Ministry, called on the nuncio and explained that due to an error the names appeared in the wrong order and that the preferred candidate of the government was Miklós Dudás. Several criticisms appeared in connection with the appointment of Bazil Takách. The government was above all concerned that the bishop in America was a citizen of Czechoslovakia. The consultation lasted for over a year. Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) finally decided to name Miklós Dudás on 25 March 1939.
The new bishop was born in Máriapócs in 1902 and entered the Basilian Order in 1920. He studied theology in Rome, and bishop István Miklósy consecrated him priest in 1927. At first he taught in the monastery of the order in Czechoslovakia, then became the superior of the monastery in Máriapócs. In 1933, he became the leader of the Hungarian branch of the St. Nicholas Province. He founded the monastery in Hajdúdorog and settled the Basilian Sisters in Hungary. During 1937-1938 he went on a highly effective missionary visit to the United States. Miklós Dudás was consecrated bishop by archbishop Antal Papp in the church in Máriapócs on 14 May 1939, with the assistance of Endre Kriston, Assistant Bishop of Eger, and Zoltán Meszlényi, Assistant Bishop of Esztergom, who later suffered martyrdom.
Only thirty-seven years-old at the time of his appointment, the new bishop set to work with youthful vigor. He wrote to the clergy of the eparchy, “My mission and goal as a bishop is to deepen the faith in our eparchy, and by making it self-conscious, ‘to make ready for the Lord a people prepared’.” (Lk. I. 17) He could not have suspected the great forces that would hinder his efforts to complete his mission over the course of his thirty-three years as bishop. Twenty-seven years after the foundation of the eparchy, the most pressing task was still the establishment of the most important institutions. By the fall of 1939, bishop Dudás had already begun negotiations with the Minister of Religion and Public Education Bálint Hóman, and later with János Huszka, ministerial adviser, on the matter of institutional development. His desire was to establish a seminary in the bishop’s residence and to build a bishop’s palace at a different location of the town. The ministry accepted this plan, and Pál Szohor, Mayor of Nyíregyháza indicated that the town was ready to fulfill its previous offer to build a palace for the bishop. The ministry urged the formation of an eparchial internat and the fulfillment of the promise made decades earlier to train Greek Catholic cantors at the teachers’ college.
The outbreak of the Second World War prevented the realization of the ambitious plans. Of the buildings in Nyíregyháza only the construction of the bishop’s residence on Sóstói Road was started. With enormous sacrifice the building was completed by the end of the war but due to the political changes the bishop could not begin to use it. The Lyceum and the School for training teachers finally opened their doors under modest circumstances under the leadership of Bertalan Estók in Hajdúdorog in 1942. One year earlier a People’college had been opened there under an initiative from the bishop. A dormitory for students was established in the Basilian monastery in the town, while the sisters secured housing for the female students in their own building. In 1943, based on the initiative of Gyula Kovács, catechist, the St. Josaphat Home for Students, also with modest accommodations and a small capacity, opened in a rented building in Nyíregyháza. The bishop also supported the expansion of the Catholic Youth Movement for both boys and girls [KALOT and KALÁSZ] in the entire eparchy. 
After the reattachment of Sub-Carpathia, the formation of clergy for the eparchy was once again returned to Ungvár, where the later martyr bishop Tódor Romzsa was their leader. The possibility for closer connections with the Eparchy of Munkács, however, could only be maintained until the fall of 1944, and the seminarists then returned to the Central Seminary. After the death of bishop Sándor Sztojka (1932-1944) in January 1944, Miklós Dudás also led the Eparchy of Munkács as Apostolic Administrator. In September of that year he consecrated Tódor Romzsa as bishop and turned the actual government of the eparchy over to him. 
The difficulties of the war years enormously restricted the possibilities of the energetic bishop, and the developments on the battlefield filled the bishop and the faithful with ever increasing anxiety. The prelate tried to encourage the believers by organizing penitential pilgrimages to Máriapócs. The violence and atrocities against the civilian population committed by the Soviet army confirmed the worst fears. Already during the winter the deportation of people fit for work, or “málenkij robot” was begun, and this meant a sentence of death for many. During the fighting four churches were destroyed, and eight others suffered serious damage. Archdean Gyula Hubán, parish priest of Pocsaj and onetime protosyncellus of the Forane Vicariate  of Székelyföld, was killed in a bombing attack. After the front had moved through. Bishop Dudás immediately undertook a tour to offer comfort to the suffering faithful. After Antal Papp’s death at Christmas 1945, Pope Pius XII named bishop Miklós Dudás, Apostolic Administrator of Miskolc, on 14 October 1946. Thus, as the only Greek Catholic prelate in Hungary, the entire responsibility for leadership of this community fell on his shoulders. Bishop Dudás appointed István Szántay-Szémán as Protosyncellus General in the Exarchate.
“During these days of great tribulations,” the bishop announced the celebration of the double jubilee of the Hungarian Greek Catholics: the 300th anniversary of the Union of Ungvár and the 250th anniversary of the First Weeping in Máriapócs. The general celebrations were held 7 and 8 September 1946 in Máriapócs on the day of the pilgrimage of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Due to the increasing attacks against the Catholic Church and its schools, as well as against Catholic education, the celebrations came to serve not only the cause of grateful memories but also testified to the loyalty and togetherness of the Greek Catholic people’s community. The Basilian Fathers prepared for the anniversary with a renewal that lasted for years. Consequently, the huge body of pilgrims, whose number reached nearly 250,000, was greeted with the Weeping Icon on a new pilgrimage altar. The celebratory sermon was given by prince primate cardinal József Mindszenty, the Archbishop of Esztergom (1945-1974), who, in a circular letter in May of that year, had been compelled by the need to protect the young to bring the Catholic schools and religious instruction under his protection. He could be satisfied that some sixty percent of the pilgrims were young people, a fact noted by the reporter for the Máriapócs MAGOSZ Calendar. In his sermen the cardinal recalled the events of the Weeping and emphasized the value of maintaining the Icon of Theotokos. He observed in front of the enormous crowd that there would have been many more celebrants on the 250th anniversary if external powers had not forced them to stay away. He recalled the Hungarians who had been left outside the borders of Hungary and declared the Catholics will appeal against “the Parisian arbiters” to the Theotokos. Amid the sorrows he pointed to the presence of hope: the churches, the Catholic schools, the Christian families, and to the cemeteries that had become the symbols of remaining true to the land of our birth. In view of his later personal fate, his words of exhortation, “No Hungarian should not imprison another Hungarian! No Hungarian should betray a fellow Hungarian!” 
By that time the Ministry of the Interior under the leadership of the Communist László Rajk was organizing the intimidation of the Catholic Church. They dissolved the religious organizations, and launched a derogatory campaign against the Church in the press. Beginning in 1945, the political police, or AVO and later AVH, which was under the direction of the Communists, arrested a number of churchmen. The Greek Catholics were shocked by the vilification of Father Dénes Regős, who was arrested and imprisoned after he participated in a mission to Nagyléta. 
Based on the actions of the Ministry of the Interior under Rajk, the Church could have no illusions about the future intensions of the Communists, who had gained power through widespread electoral fraud in the elections of 1947. The Hungarian Greek Catholics became particularly alarmed by the disturbing news that came from Sub-Carpathian region and the Eparchy of Munkács, which had been attached to the Soviet Union. The brutal murder of bishop Tódor Romzsa on 1 November 1947 and the subsequent banning of the activities of the Greek Catholic Church seemed to indicate that Stalin’s followers in Hungary were preparing to take similar steps.