117. Telegram From the Embassy in Hungary to the Department of State1

942. Subject: Cardinal Mindszenty. Ref: State 97483, Rome 3538.2

Appreciate the opportunity to comment.
Para 3 State 97483 contains the nub of the matter. The Cardinalʼs whole instinct is to stay put, and it will take a well considered mix of pressure and inducement to move him. Obedience to Rome is a basic principle to him. Thus, the Vatican proposal should carry the force of a personal wish of the Pope to be fully effective. Anything short of this will give the Cardinal room to maneuver and temporize.
Publication of the memoirs is indeed a key factor (para 5, State 97483) and this issue and the question of silence loom as main negotiating areas. The Hungarian Government will exert heavy pressure to get a Vatican commitment on silence and against publication, even posthumously, and it probably feels the Vatican is not unwilling to pay the price in an effort to normalize the situation of the church in Hungary. It should be realized that the chances of getting the Cardinal out will be severely reduced in the absence of some arrangement for publication. The Vatican should be aware that in our judgment the Hungarians do not want the Cardinal to die in the Embassy, and are therefore not in as commanding a position as they will doubtless try to convey. There is room for negotiation, though the Hungarians will not give in easily or quickly. The proposed Koenig–Cheli–Zagon visit to the Cardinal is likely to be only the first stage in an extended process.
We take it that the Department is considering the question of press handling of the visit and will give us guidance. We must assume that the visit will be public knowledge. The most frequently asked question we get from diplomatic colleagues these days is when is Koenig coming to see the Cardinal with the Vatican proposals. Given his past performance Koenig for one will likely be prepared to talk to the press either here or in Vienna.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 693, Country Files—Europe, Hungary, Vol. I. Secret; Priority;Exdis. Repeated to Rome.
  2. Telegram 97483 to Rome, June 4, instructed the Embassy to seek an appointment with Cardinal Casaroli as soon as possible to stress the U.S. concern for a rapid departure of Mindszenty for reasons of his health and to seek Vatican action to achieve this objective. Telegram 3538 from Rome, June 5, reported on discussions with Casaroli regarding Mindszentyʼs departure. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 12–1 HUNG)