On Saturday, November 14th, at 10 AM, a conference will be held in the ceremonial hall of the Szent Imre Secondary Vocational School in Esztergom to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Father István Uzdóczy-Zadravecz, Franciscan friar and bishop. László Bíró, military chaplain, and Father Benedek Dobszay, the Franciscan Order’s most senior representative in Hungary, will be the conference’s patrons. Sándor Szakály, the Director of the VERITAS Research Institute for History, will give his presentation titled The Formation of the National Army, while for the afternoon session, he will take over duties as conference chairman. The day will finish with a holy mass, a wreath laying and a reception that marks the end of the conference.
A somewhat neglected figure of history, István Zadravecz was born in Csáktornya in 1884. At the very early age of fourteen, he joined the Franciscan Order and later studied at the theological seminary in Zagreb. He was then sent to St. Anthony Collegium in Rome, where he studied dogmatic theology and rhetoric. He doctored in both fields. He was ordained as a priest in 1907 at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. Upon returning to Hungary, he taught in Baja and Gyöngyös, in time becoming the prior at the monastery in Szeged. During WWI, he teamed up with the fighting men, providing spiritual guidance to them. He also helped take care of the wounded. Together with Immánuel Lőw, a rabbi in Szeged, he fought hard against anti-Semitism, and openly defied Béla Kun. Later he became friendly with Miklós Horthy, who urged Archbishop János Csernoch to lobby on behalf of Zadravecz to be named military chaplain by the Holy See. In 1920 he was appointed head military chaplain and tried to renew the spirit of the army by making its Roman Catholic soldiers nobler in spirit and prouder of their Hungarian heritage. After WWII and the dissolution of the religious orders, he faced many trials and tribulations: for two years he was locked up in prison, but even upon his release he refused to flee Hungary. Under cover he ordained thirty seminarians. The authorities banned him from Budapest. When necessary, he used physical force to protect the persecuted Jews. After his mother’s death, he toiled at the parish in Zsámbék. The communist police and the so-called “peace clergy” harassed him to his dying day. He passed away on November 13th, 1965.