“Only nations that have a strong national identity and are capable of preserving their cultural, religious and historical heritage can be successful”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at the inauguration of the refurbished Benedictine Abbey Museum in Tihany on Friday.

“Hungary and the whole Hungarian nation can rightfully be proud of the Benedictine Order, who have given the Hungarian nation faith in even the most difficult times”, Mr. Szijjártó emphasised. “Their schools provide children with the highest level of knowledge, and have contributed to enabling Hungary to be among the world’s most successful and competitive nations”, he stated. The Minister, who himself attended a Benedictine school, highlighted: “The nation has been able to safely rely on the heritage of Saint Benedict throughout the past one thousand years”. He said Tihany is also a special place because the founding charter of the Abbey (1055 AD) is the oldest existing Hungarian document to have survived in its original form. At the official inauguration of the Abbey Museum, which has been refurbished thanks to 225 million forints (EUR 637 thousand) in state funding, the Minister announced: “The government is providing a further 2.7 million forints in funding to the Tihany Priory of the Benedictine Order to assure the refurbishment and improvement of the Abbey itself, and towards the establishment of tourist attractions”.

Mr. Szijjártó also spoke about the fact that although religious freedom has existed in Hungary for hundreds of years, this is still not the case in many places around the world. The Minister said Christians are the world’s most persecuted religious community, explaining that every eighth Christian in the world has suffered atrocities because of their faith and religion, and some 260 million Christians are being forced to suffer persecution or atrocities. “Eight Christians-a-day become the victim of hate crimes, and close to ten thousand churches and Christian buildings have been attacked or destroyed in recent years, but despite this the subject is not mentioned in international public life”, he added.

In his speech, head of Tihany Abbey Prior Norbert Jeromos Mihályi said: “Lake Balaton has a soul”. “Christian faith and culture, which have lifted and ennobled the environment and the human soul, remains tangible today in the people who live and visit here”, he stated. The Prior said one of the special objects of the permanent exhibition is a stone tablet that once adorned the main façade of Tihany Abbey, which was nationalised and taken from the monks by force in 1950, and which was only able to operate as a museum for decades. “This stone tablet reminds us that from time to time a destructive ideology can even take away the home of Christians, monks, and an order that takes part in the construction of the country, but nobody can take away the mission they have received from God, their heritage, the memory of their predecessors, and their momentum”, he stated.

The Benedictine Abbey in Tihany was awarded funding as part of a ten-member consortium for the touristic development of the tentative Balaton Highlands world heritage site. The 225-million-forint project realised from European Union and domestic funding included the full refurbishment of the Abbey’s cellar, where an exhibition entitled “Soul Above the Waters – The Meeting of Past and Present in Tihany Abbey” was established in accordance with modern tourism trends. The exhibition presents the almost one-thousand-year-old history of the Abbey from a new perspective with the help of interactive panels, and spectaculat videos, animations and projected shows, in addition to demonstrating the everyday lives and customs of the Abbey’s eleven inhabitants in a contemporary monk’s room. At the opening ceremony, curator Mariann Tóthné Szlavkovszky said: “The exhibition is about connections; nature, faith and history come together in the exhibition’s materials”. In the gallery linked to the Museum, an exhibition of sixty photographs by Benedictine students and alumni from Győr entitled “Benedictine Togetherness” was also opened. At the event, patron of the photo exhibition Prior Kelemen Sárai-Szabó expressed his thanks to the students and alumni who took the photographs for their efforts.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade / MTI)