• U.S.

Religion: The Prisoner

2 minute read

To President Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House, Washington:

As a shipwreck of Hungarian liberty I have been taken aboard by your generosity in a refuge of my own country and as a guest of your Legation. Your hospitality surely saved me from immediate death.

With deep gratitude I am sending my heartfelt congratulations to Your Excellency on the occasion of your re-election to the Presidency of the United States, an exalted office whose glory is that it serves the highest ambitions of mankind: God, charity, wisdom and human happiness . . . May the Lord grant you and your nation greater strength and richer life … I beg of you, do not forget this small honest nation who is enduring torture and death in the service of humanity.

This letter, from Josef Cardinal Mindszenty, made public by the White House last week, was smuggled out of Hungary by a U.S. newsman. With it came some details of the cardinal’s refuge in Budapest’s U.S. legation. “I have suffered tortures in body and soul. It is God’s miracle that I am here and that I am as I am.” he had said as he presented himself at the legation and asked for asylum. (According to one new report. Red secret police had made three attempts on Mindszenty’s life in the years before his 1949 trial). The day after his arrival at the legation, on the cloth-draped desk of new Minister Edward Wailes, with an American flag standing near by, the cardinal celebrated Mass for members of the staff and correspondents.

In the big five-story building, the cardinal uses Minister Wailes’s large office as his sitting room and sleeps in a smaller adjoining office. He spends all his time behind closed doors, working on the story of his trial and imprisonment. Meals—the catch-as-catch-can collations put together from the legation’s stores, and supplemented by station-wagon “convoys” from Austria—are served to him alone. Suffering and fatigue show in his brown eyes. He is deeply unhappy; he has said that he is shut off once again from his people—in the hour of their greatest need.

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