Retired Archbishop of Krakow and former aide to Pope Saint John Paul II Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz received this year’s Petőfi Award. The accolade, which is awarded by the House of Terror Museum’s foundation and the MOL Group, was presented at a ceremony in Budapest’s House of Terror Museum on Tuesday.

At the award ceremony, Minister of human Capacities Zoltán Balog highlighted: The Petőfi Award “is important for us”, she choice of recipient indicated what values “are important to us”. This value is freedom, the freedom of all people, and the freedom of Central Europe, including Hungary and Poland, which Stanisław Dziwisz has served all his life.

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“Half way between the Eastern and Western empires, we must occasionally face the fact that freedom is one of most important treasures, and that it has its price, we must fight for it, we must preserve it, and we must live for it and in it”, the Minister said.

“Our most important ally in resisting against false and inhumane ideologies is Christianity, as too in reconciliation, and nowhere is this described more clearly than in the House of terror, where priests were tortured during communism and where a separate room is devoted to Cardinal József Mindszenty”, Mr. Balog said.

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Primate of Hungary and Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, said: Stanisław Dziwisz “has been witness to great historical events and is the bearer of great spiritual events”. “He is part of the miracle that was realised in no small part thanks to the activities of Pope Saint John Paul II: the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the liberation of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe from the oppression of communist rule”, the Archbishop said.

Stanisław Dziwisz’s whole life as a priest so far has been linked to Pope Saint John Paul II. Not long after being ordained as a priest in 1963, in October 1966 he became personal secretary to the newly appointed Archbishop pf Krakow, Karol Wojtyła, who he accompanied to the papal conclave on two occasions in 1978. The second trip proved to be decisive: Cardinal Karol Wojtyła remained in Rome as Pope, and his secretary remained with him “to accompany him on this wonderful and difficult path”, the Archbishop recalled.

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According to Archbishop Erdő, Stanisław Dziwisz was “the world’s most sought-after and acclaimed grey eminence” throughout a quarter of a century “thanks to his diplomatic and gentle personality and his generous good will”. “His dignity, wisdom and clear memory left many in awe, and left others perhaps a little unsettled”.

In her speech, Director-General of the House of Terror Museum Mária Schmidt stressed: The Petőfi Award is about freedom, which is the source of all common good. This is one of the reasons why this award is becoming increasingly important, because it is as though there is less and less freedom, as though the knowledge according to which only freedom can beget order is being forgotten.

“Freedom’s heroes are linked by the fact that the firmly represented and represent our most important common values”, the Director-General said, adding: “It is these values that form the thousands of years old foundations of Europe’s national communities, and they are almost exclusively rooted in Christianity”.

The Award was presented by member of the MOL Group’s Board of Directors Oszkár Világi.

Cardinal Dziwisz, who also expressed his thanks for the Award in Hungarian, spoke about the fact that the people of Hungary and Poland have helped each other on numerous occasions during the course of history, and must work jointly in future for Europe.

Karol Wojtyła’s election as Pope and his subsequent visit to Poland instilled great hope in the Polish people and served as a “catalyst” for the fall of communism, he said.

“The Pope freed people from their fear, and paid a heavy price for doing so”, he said, referring to the assassination attempt on the Pope in St. Peter’s Square in 1981.

“The Polish Pope also saw in advance that following the fall of communism it would not be easy to build a new order on the ruins of the previous order. This is why he said on several occasions that Europe has Christian roots and this is something that must not be forgotten, because the loss of hope is related to the loss of Christian roots”, he recalled.

Cardinal Dziwisz said the money received with the award would be spent on establishing a Hungarian memorial at the Pope Saint John Paul II Centre in Krakow.

In his toast, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén spoke about the fact that without Polish Catholics, and without Stanisław Dziwisz and Pope Saint John Paul II, it might easily be the ase that those who are celebrating the Polish cardinal today in the House of terror would be doing so in the building’s cells.

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“In 1989, we never thought we would live to see the day when Western-European anti-Christianity wants to remove the cross from the statue of Pope Saint John Paul II”, he added.

All of this indicates that the pope’s teachings not only saved us from Bolshevism, but also teach us that “we must protect ourselves” from the anti-Christianity that is now threatening us from the West, the Deputy Prime Minister said.

The Petőfi Award was established by the Public Foundation for the Research of Central and Eastern European History and Society, and is presented to outstanding personalities form the region whose steadfastness and sacrifice in the interests of freedom have been exemplary, and who have facilitated freedom and the “common good”.

Previous recipients of the Petőfi Award include Slovakian human rights activist Miroslav Kusý, former Prime Minister of Estonia Mart Laar, Protestant clergyman László Tőkés, organiser of the Pan-European Picnic Mária Filep, and founding President of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service Imre Kozma.

(Ministry of Human Capacities/MTI)