Ex-Communist László Kövér has no business dedicating Catholic chapel

The August 29th dedication of the new Chapel (Magyarok Nagyasszonya kápolna) at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC will start with a Solemn Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl of Washington and Cardinal Erdő of Esztergom-Budapest. Readings and choral pieces will be both in English and in Hungarian.

This could be a wonderful religious event, but Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi plans to turn it into a right-wing nationalist political rally.

The Embassy will set up a tent at the outside terrace of the Basilica to serve a “Hungarian feast and picnic” where Mr. László Kövér, the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, and Mr. Miklós Soltész, State Secretary in charge of Church relations, can do political hobnobbing with the carefully (only RSVP) selected audience.

We asked Jacquelyn Hayes, Director of Communications of the Basilica about the Ambassador’s plan and she told HFP that the dedication is strictly a religious ceremony. No political statements, declarations or discussions are allowed in the Basilica, and politicians may participate as worshipers, just like everyone else.

Interior of the Basilica.

Interior of the Basilica.

It is inappropriate to emphasize on the Embassy’s invitation that politicians Mr. Kövér and Mr. Soltész will be “in attendance”. The Embassy also distributed a video invitation. To my surprise, Ms. Hayes has never seen it although it contains a clip from Monsignor Rossi of the Shrine. (Click here to see it.)

On the YouTube video Mr. Zsolt Semjén, Deputy Prime Minister, is making a political declaration by repeating his thesis that all Americans with Hungarian origins live in the “diaspora” and are “members of the Hungarian Nation” as “Hungarians.” Most Americans consider this notion offensive and reject this nationalist agenda. American Nobel Prize winner Mr. György Oláh publicly asked to be called an American of Hungarian origin. (See here after min. 10.)

Mr. Kövér is also known for anti-American statements. He attacked US policies and Presidents Bush and Obama numerous times while praising World War II Hungarian fascists and making other controversial statements. Mr. Kövér also had leadership positions in the Communist Youth organization (KISZ) and started his career as a “researcher” for the Hungarian Communist Party leadership. He has never apologized for his past and even tried to cover up his activities. Many Hungarian Americans left their birth country illegally during the Kádár-regime; a lot of them suffered and were even jailed under Communism for practicing their Catholic faith. It would be a disgrace to have the ex-Communist Mr. Kövér present at this dedication. It shows the deep cynicism of the Hungarian leadership and the political opportunism of Ambassador Szemerkényi. (More about Mr. Kövér here.)

 László Kövér is hiding his Communist past.

László Kövér is hiding his Communist past.

The Ambassador even added a dose of syncretism in her invitation by calling the Chapel a shrine “for all Hungarians” independently from their religious beliefs. The Basilica was “raised by Catholics of the United States because of their devotion to Mary the Mother of God, gives visibility to their faith and Catholic heritage.”

Madame Ambassador, the dedication of the Chapel is a Catholic religious event. Don’t turn it into a political rally! Ex-Communist Mr. Kövér’s presence would be humiliating to the Hungarian-American community. He should stay at home in Budapest.

György Lázár

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