The history of the orthodox church in Hungary is rich and varied. In the ninth century, Gabriel, a missionary from Constantinople, was sent to the Hungarians. His missionary efforts did not meet with much success. Bultsu, a Hungarian, was baptized in Constantinople, but he later apostatized. Several other Hungarian Christians were converted, including Gyula, who returned to her people and later became a bishop of the Magyars.
St. Moses the Hungarian
Moses the Hungarian was a monk of Hungarian descent who died on 26 July 1043. Today, he is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He was born in Hungary and served under the holy prince Boris. When Saint Boris was murdered by the Boleslavian army in the River Alta, Saint Moses hid with his sister Predislava in Kiev.
The Hungarian people were mostly pagan when Moses was born, but eventually became Orthodox Christians. When the Hungarian chieftain Gyula converted to Christianity in Constantinople, he made it possible for Moses to go to Kiev.
St. Stephen, a patron saint of Hungary, was canonized by Pope Gregory VII on 20 August 1083. His feast day, 20 August, is a national holiday in Hungary and commemorates the foundation of the Hungarian state. In addition to being a patron saint, Stephen is also the patron saint of bricklayers, stone masons, and children.
During his reign, King Stephen brought Christianity to Hungary and regal dignity. He obtained a royal crown from the Roman Pontiff and offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See. During his lifetime, he founded several houses of charity in Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople. He also established the Archiepipipipipipipiparchate of Gran and ten other bishoprics. Many Christians in Hungary still honor St. Stephen’s life by holding a St. Stephen’s Day Mass.
St. Stephen’s canonization
Pope Sylvester II announced St. Stephen’s canonization among the orthodox saints in Hungary in a message to the Hungarian people. The statement was read by Patriarch Bartholomeos I of Constantinople and presented to Cardinal Primate Laszlo Paskai. The Patriarch also called for a revival of the Orthodox Church in Hungary. Today, fewer than one percent of the population is Eastern Orthodox.
King Stephen of Hungary led Hungary to Christianity in the 11th century. His vision led the duchess Sarolt to marry the Hungarian duke Geza, who later converted to Christianity with the bishop Saint Adalbert of Prague. Their son Vaik was baptized by him in 985.
St. Stephen’s relics
In the late 19th century, the relics of St. Stephen were brought to the city of Pest. A procession was held, and it is said that Pope John Paul II participated in it. It was also accompanied by national interest. It was a moment that would mark the beginning of the large-scale St. Stephen’s Day holiday in Hungary.
The Hungarian people have cherished the relics of St. Stephen since he was buried in the city of Szekesfehervar in 1038. The relics of Stephen’s hand are preserved in a neo-Gothic silver and glass reliquary. For centuries, the Hungarian people have revered the hand of their first king.
St. Stephen’s day
Hungary’s celebration of St. Stephen’s Day is one of the largest in the world, and is also celebrated in other countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Alsace-Moselle region. Although it is not a public holiday in all of France, the region does observe the holiday.
Stephen’s parents were rulers of the Magyars (modern Hungary). While his father practiced pagan rites, his parents converted to Christianity. Stephen himself was baptized when he was ten years old. He became grand prince at the age of twenty-one, and ruled as a Christian.
The Church Slavonic language is a descendant of the Greek language and is used in Eastern Europe. The language was used in the Byzantine Church and was later translated into Church Slavonic by Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the eighth century. Cyril is also responsible for the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, which expresses the sounds of the Slavonic language.
In 1989, the communist regime in Hungary came to an end. People were free to exercise their faith and the State Office for Church Affairs was no longer in existence. In the following years, the Greek Catholic Church was legalized in Ukraine, and Pope John Paul II nominated Greek Catholic bishops in Romania.