Konstantin Szabó, Greek Catholic priest arrived from Subcarpathia. In his testimony, delivered in the Eucharistic Congress, he spoke about the troublesome times of his Church and the Hungarians living in Subcarpathia, highlighting their catching-up present, as well as their hopeful future.
What self-control one has to need not sharing the greatest moment of the life with your brother! – as Konstantin Szabó’s testimony was announced. The Monday morning program of the International Eucharistic congress included the testimony of Father Konstantin, Greek Catholic priest from Subcarpathia, who was ordained priest in the greatest secrecy during the era of the communist Soviet Union. Not even his family was aware of his ordination. Father Konstantin also reminded the audience that current year the Greek Catholic Diocese of Munkács (Mukachevo, Ukraine) is celebrating the 375th anniversary of the Uzhorod Union, the canonization of the diocese 250 years ago, as well as the 20th anniversary of Martyr Tódor Romzsa’s beatification.
Romzsa’s murder was the cornerstone
In October 1944 the Soviet army occupied Subcarpathia, which was then part of Hungary. But the Soviets had to face the dominance of the Greek Catholic Diocese of Munkács, headed by a young, barely a one month consecrated bishop, Tódor Romzsa. The Greek Catholic Dioceses of Lemberg and Stanislav had already been forced to merge into the Russian Orthodox Church, however, they could not manage the same with the Greek Catholics of Subcarpatia, therefore they murdered Bishop Romzsa.
Lessened but not broken
The assassination made the priesthood and the faithful even more determined. In return, the Soviets confiscated the church buildings, ten priests were arrested on spurious charges, the rectories, giving home for many priestly families, were requisitioned. Priests’ wives, working mainly as school teachers, were fired. Liquidation started in 1949, 127 priests of the diocese confessed their faith, out of them thirty became martyrs.
Forty-two priests started a catacomb service – recalled Konstantin Szabó the hard times. “These times our secretly ordained bishops included Sándor Chira, Péter Orosz, Konstantin Szabó, János Szemedi, József Holovács and Iván Margitics. They were assisted by the priestly ministry of 47 priests, also ordained in secret.” – the Greek Catholic priest unveiled the history, adding that their ministry was carried out in full secrecy and had to be effected in addition to their civil jobs. They could not even keep the register of the birth certificate, however, the child of the Communist party secretary, and even the son of the KGB (Committee for State Security of the Soviet Union) major were baptized. “Goes without saying that all this was carried out behind closed doors and curtained windows” – remarked maliciously Father Szabó.
Forty years of damage cannot be restored in forty years
Going back to the years of relief, he recalled the end of 1989, when finally the Greek Catholic Diocese of Munkács was legalized, and following this date performing the Holy Liturgy was no longer punished. However, neither the rehabilitation of the diocese, nor apology was made. Furthermore, the Cathedral, as well as the Bishop’s Palace that were confiscated within a couple of hours were returned many years later. Out of the 440 churches taken by the Orthodox Church only 117 have been returned. Currently we have 290 churches and a further 30 are under reconstruction. “We are still quite far from our 1949 status” – noted Konstantin Szabó, adding what was said to him so many times: “forty years of damage cannot be restored in forty years.”
The father gave information on their current situation, noting that sacramental life in Subcarpathia has preserved its traditional nature, by now many parishes have recorded a slow increase in the monthly confession, as well as in the Christmas and Easter retreats, on top a nice rise has been experienced in preparation for the church feasts, including confession and taking the Eucharist. Believers like pilgrimages, especially the ones to the shrines of Mother of God, one of their favourite sites is Máriapócs in Hungary, which is an important spiritual centre of the Greek Catholicism in the Carpathian Basin.
In a triple minority
Father Szabó also unveiled that they are living in a triple minority in Subcarpathia: Ukraine is a country of 40 million inhabitants, forming a huge Ortohox majority, and in that sea they are a minority as Hungarians, as Greek Catholics, and as Hungarian speaking citizens of the Diocese of Munkács. Therefore, in September 2016, Diocesan Bishop Milan Sasik, appointed a Diocesan Vicar General for the Hungarian parishes and their Hungarian worshippers.
Plans: college establishment, school expansion
Currently the diocese structure includes 45 vicarages, 23 parishes and 22 filians, pastoral ministry is carried out by 17 priests, while they have an extensive institutional system. Their future plans cover to set up a university college in Ungvár (Uzhhorod), to ensure operation for nursery schools, to expand their school system with elementary schools, to establish a resort centre in the district, to build elderly homes, day homes, to reconstruct the mansion in Tiszaújhely (Nove Selo) for the use of the Greek Catholic Youth Organisation, as well as to develop a Caritas centre and to restore their churches.
As to the Greek Catholic priest, there is nothing to be proud of when studying the past of their politician priests. On the other hand, he has learned a lot from the faithful and witnessing priests of his Church, whose lives gave him strength, showed him the importance of the given word, the fulfilment of the duty, and that Christianity can never be betrayed.
Without fearing God, we drive our lives into damnation
The enemy is still the very same: the Satan, the evil, the ones, -like diabolos-, still want to divide, to divert from the Lord, and to create a tricky society in which everything works upside down. It is a society, in which everything that is valuable, holy, beautiful and good, is not needed at all – emphasized the Father in his testimony. He talked in an extremely touching way about his mother’s life, who passed away from this earthly world without getting the slightest apology, though following his father’s arrest, his mother was left alone with a baby of 1.5 years old, she was expelled through Subcarpatia, and many times and places she was not allowed to work.
Confrontation with the lies
As for the future, Konstantin Szabó expressed his desire to have in his homeland, Subcarpathia, a government that takes the Church as a partner. “A government that appreciates the efforts of our Church to serve the common good. A Church that educates moral, beauty, good and faith to the children, to the youth. The Church that confronts with evil and lies, the unnatural and godless phenomena.” – underlined Father Szabó, provoking thereby a huge open applause. He was of the belief that all above can be greatly supported by a sacramental life, since we guide our lives and future into damnation without fearing God. “Where there is love, and we can make sacrifices, the future is there.”- emphasized Konstantin Szabó.
His testimony has been closed with a prayer from the end of the Greek Catholic Holy Liturgy: “Christ our God, who is Yourself the completeness of the law and the prophets, who have accomplished all the salvation care of your Father, fill our hearts with joy and happiness!” He wished the faithful and the pilgrims that the Eucharistic Congress would bring a lot of joy and happiness for the entire world. Father Kosztyu’s testimony brought tears to the audience’ eyes and was thanked with a great applause.