Hungarian Church

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A significant Byzantine church was present in Hungary in the Middle Ages. Indeed, there were several Byzantine monasteries in the country in the 11th and 12th centuries, but all of them were destroyed during the 13th-century Tatar invasions.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, due to widespread population shifts caused by the Turkish invasions, communities of Orthodox Serbs, Ruthenians, Slovaks and Greeks moved into the area. Most of them eventually became Catholic but retained their Byzantine heritage. In the 18th century a number of Hungarian Protestants became Catholic and chose the Byzantine rite, again adding to the number of Byzantine Catholics in Hungary. They were placed under the jurisdiction of non-Hungarian Byzantine bishops.

Once this community of Greek Catholics was integrated into Hungarian society, some began to press for the use of the Hungarian language in the liturgy. But such a proposal was resisted by the church authorities. For this reason, the first Hungarian translation of the liturgy of John Chrysostom had to be published privately in 1795. In the 19th century several other liturgical books were published in Hungarian, but their use was still not approved by the ecclesiastical authorities.

A watershed in the history of this community took place in 1900, when a large group of Greek Catholic Hungarians went to Rome on pilgrimage for the Holy Year. They presented Pope Leo XIII with a petition asking him to approve the use of Hungarian in the liturgy and to create a distinct diocese for them. The question was discussed at length both at the Holy See and in Budapest, and finally on June 18, 1912, Pope Pius X erected the diocese of Hajdúdorog for the 162 Hungarian-speaking Greek Catholic parishes. But the use of Hungarian was limited to non-liturgical functions: the liturgy was to be celebrated in Greek and the clergy were given three years to learn it. World War I intervened, however, and the requirement to use Greek was never enforced. In the 1930s the rest of the necessary liturgical books were published in Hungarian.

On June 4, 1924, an Apostolic Exarchate was established at Miskolc for 21 Ruthenian parishes formerly in the diocese of Prešov that remained in Hungarian territory after Czechoslovakia was created. They were provided with a distinct identity because they used Slavonic in the liturgy. By the 1940s, however, they had all begun to use Hungarian, and the apostolic exarchate since that time has been administered by the bishop of Hajdúdorog.

The diocese of Hajdúdorog originally covered only eastern Hungary and the city of Budapest. In 1980 its jurisdiction was extended to all Greek Catholics in Hungary. There is a seminary at Nyiregyháza.

The rather small number of Greek Catholic Hungarians who immigrated to North America have a few parishes, all of them part of the Ruthenian dioceses in the USA and the Ukrainian dioceses in Canada.

LOCATION: Hungary
HEAD: Bishop Szilárd Keresztes (born 1932, appointed 1988)
TITLE: Bishop of Hajdúdorog, Apostolic Administrator of Miskolc
RESIDENCE: Nyiregyháza, Hungary
MEMBERSHIP: 282,000

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