Most Reverend Bishops and Archbishop, congregants,
My sincere greetings to the ecclesiastical and lay preachers of the Reformed, Evangelical and Unitarian churches, and to the staff and students of the Protestant Theological Institute of Kolozsvár. Before I to pass on the greetings and good wishes of your mother country through this speech, please allow me to briefly explain that irreverent question of mine that Bishop Béla Kató quoted a little earlier: “Is it worth being Hungarian?” This isn’t my question, it was written somewhere by István Szécsenyi: “Being Hungarian is an uplifting feeling, but is not profitable”. The goal of the Hungarian government is to ensure that being Hungarian remains something uplifting, and that it should also be profitable for all Hungarians.
A little earlier we heard the following: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity”. This is the teaching. Yes, but what are those essentials, and what is non-essential? Distinguishing between the two is an exacting science: perhaps the most important one; and both the validity of theology and the success of government in general depend on this. Today five hundred Protestant pastors have together entered the House of God: five hundred pastors on this five-hundredth anniversary. Today what else could we regard as being most important, other than asking for another five hundred years? We ask for another five hundred years in the Carpathian Basin. Here in Kolozsvár we ask for another five hundred years, throughout which we can live as Christians and Hungarians. And then, when we have received them and lived through them, our judge in Heaven will decide whether we have deserved another five hundred years. This is a great request: immodestly great. But even with the deepest humbleness of heart we have to say that we are encouraged and inspired to make this request by five hundred years of achievement, effort, struggle and continued faith in Christ.
But do we have the strength needed for the next five hundred years? To this all I can say is that the roots that have sustained us so far are deep and strong. They sustained us after the country was split into three after the Battle of Mohács. Almost a hundred years ago they sustained us after we were hacked into five parts. They sustained us under the boarded-over sky of communist dictatorship, when our historic Protestant schools existed spiritually, but not physically. And finally they also supported us in recent decades: when it emerged that everything that had been taken from us with the speed of a predator, would only be returned with the speed of a snail; when it emerged that we would have to fight for every brick, every tile, and every Hungarian inscription; when it emerged that everything taken away in its beauty and entirety would be returned in a state of decay and ruin. If throughout all this our vitality has not been exhausted, if we have succeeded in remaining upright like an oak tree, even under the weight of five hundred years of history, then we shall also continue to stand tall over the next five hundred years.
The following is a quotation: “Do you believe that the Hungarian peoples would exist in their present form were it not for Calvin? I do not!” Unquote. These are the words of Catholic poet Gyula Illyés, on the Reformation. The first five hundred years have come to an end. Once again the time has come to ask ourselves: would the Hungarian people exist in its present form, were it not for the reformers, and were it not for Protestant preachers travelling from village to village? Would Europe – or even the Western world – exist in its present form, were it not for Protestants, who stood their ground when others took flight, and who sowed seed in places where there was hardly any chance of a harvest? Does the Reformation still have a remedy for the ailments tormenting European culture today? Is there a Reformed remedy for Europe’s current cultural exhaustion, economic retreat and demographic decline? Is there a cure for its surrender in the face of foreign cultures? Does the Reformation still have a valid response to the vital issues affecting the Hungarian people today? Does it have a response to population decline, to unification of the nation, to enabling the continued existence of Hungarians living in the diaspora, or to the construction of the national economy?
Five hundred years ago, the Reformation was the solution for a divided Europe that was struggling with uncertainty and had set out on the wrong path. Five hundred years ago it was the Reformation that also mapped out the path of survival for us, the Hungarians. It created literature in the Hungarian language and established the border fortress system of Hungarian resistance: Protestant schools.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Reformed Church still has messages for Europe, the Western world and Hungary today. Remain how God created you. Remain true to your nationality, sex and faith. Preserve order, and order will preserve you. Preserve your churches and schools and preserve yourself in Christianity, and Christianity will preserve you. Stand up and fight for what is important to you. Fight both in times when it is convenient and inconvenient, in the face of the majority, in the face of persecution and in the face of aggression, too, if needed: just as when István Bocskai and Gábor Bethlen unfurled their battle flags, and just as in 1989, when freedom set out on its path from a Reformed parish in Temesvár (Timișoara).
Finally, we must answer the question of what all this means for us, the Hungarians of today. What does all this mean for the students of the Protestant Theological Institute of Kolozsvár? It means two things: encouragement and a task. We are encouraged by the knowledge that Christianity is an anvil on which already countless hammers have been worn down. And it presents us with a task: we must preserve and continue the unique, five hundred-year intellectual and cultural tradition that the churches of the Reformation established here in Transylvania, the cradle of Europe’s freedom of religion. We must fully inhabit this intellectual and geographical area, just as it is also our task to create a home in it for future generations of Hungarians.
One of the precepts of our national mission is to search for and preserve Hungarian communities. Our mission is to fight to ensure that people can prosper, study in Hungarian, and live as Hungarians in the land of their birth. This is also one of the missions of the Hungarian government, as laid down in our Constitution. Though dispersed and divided by borders, the Hungarians are still members of a common body. A body cannot be healthy, and it cannot live a full and happy life, if any part of it is unhealthy. For this reason we are building a unified Hungarian nation that has common goals and common tasks, and which now also makes joint decisions. It is in our mutual interest for there to be a future in which the relationship between the Romanian nation and the Hungarian nation is balanced, and in which the rights of Hungarians are also recognised. It is in our mutual interest to have a future in which the closure of a school can only be a malfunction in the system and some kind of mistake, and not a normal feature of life. It is in our mutual interest to have a future in which no Hungarian or Romanian community can be stripped of its members’ right to study in their own language. It is in our mutual interest to have a future in which today’s rising Hungary is linked to an emerging Romania; a future in which the countries of the Visegrád Group, which are the motors of the European economy, are linked to Romania.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Students of Theology,
And what task awaits young theologians once they have left this institution? Well, this is of course something that your bishops will no doubt be explaining to you. As Hungary’s prime minister, all I can tell you – and all I need to tell you – is that what awaits you is pastoral service in its purest form. We Hungarians are standing at the gates of a great era. After years of decline and confinement, there will now follow an era of growth, prosperity and expansion: an era of heads held high and national pride – as also proven by today’s celebration. And not only in Hungary, but throughout the entire the Carpathian Basin; and in this task Protestant congregations are the Hungarian nation’s forward garrisons. Your task will be to gather together your families at your posts and tell them that the future will be written in Hungarian.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Students,
There is already much to harvest, but there are still not enough workers. My wish for you is that you understand the new tunes of these new times. In the fight for our survival, there now follows an era in which the limits to growth and fulfilment are no longer due to external factors. Our boundaries are no longer external, but internal. The span and scale of our achievement will be that which is allowed by our courage, determination, talent and integrity. My wish for you is that the Theological Academy remains true to its mission. Let it remain a strong bastion of Hungarian Protestantism in Transylvania. Let its halls fill with young people who have a calling, commitment and the strength to act. May the Academy clad them in the armour of faith, learning and patriotism, so that following their studies they are well-prepared and can boldly take their places as the leaders of Transylvania’s Protestant congregations, to the benefit of the Hungarian nation. I ask you to be proud of the fact that, as Protestant pastors, you have the opportunity to launch our next five hundred years.
Soli Deo gloria!