122. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Cardinal Mindszenty: A Status Report

There now appears to be every reasonable prospect that Cardinal Mindszenty will leave our Embassy in Budapest by mid-October, but of course there is always the possibility that the project could still become unglued.

The Presidentʼs reply letter2 was delivered to the Cardinal exactly in time, during the July 15–16 meetings with Vatican officials. The general purport of the exchange of letters was also conveyed to the Vatican. As a result of the lengthy discussions between the Vatican officials and the Cardinal (assisted certainly by the Presidentʼs letter, as well as a letter from the Pope), the Cardinal finally agreed to leave the Embassy in September or in October at the latest. The final set of conditions posed by the Cardinal was that (a) his sister could visit him in Budapest before he leaves, (b) that the world understand his departure did not mean that the Churchʼs problems in Hungary were solved, and (c) his memoirs could safely be gotten to Austria before he arrives there.

The last condition involves us. Ambassador Puhan proposed that the Embassy utilize the diplomatic pouch to deliver the memoires to our Embassy in Vienna as soon as feasible, and that they be surrendered to the Cardinal after he arrives in Vienna and after Vatican approval. State has now approved that proposal.3

The present planning for the modalities of the Cardinalʼs move is that he will travel on a Vatican passport in a car with the Apostolic Nuncio from Vienna and a Vatican official from Rome. With respect to press handling, State intends to have statements on the reasons for the departure come from the Vatican and the Cardinal himself once in Vienna, [Page 289] aside from an expression of our pleasure at being able to have assisted him during these years of refuge.4

Ambassador Puhan met July 21 with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter who raised the Mindszenty situation.5 He said he was aware from Vatican sources that the Cardinal was ready to leave the Embassy. Puhan expressed a hope that the arrangements still to be worked out between the Vatican and Hungary could be made without great delay so as to expedite the Cardinalʼs departure. (Puhan noted that departure before the anniversary of the October 23, 1956 events would be desirable.) Peter understood, and remarked that he was awaiting detailed proposals from the Vatican which would be acted on swiftly.

Peter said that the Cardinalʼs departure would be beneficial to the normalization of US-Hungarian relations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 693, Country Files—Europe, Hungary, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for information. Initialed by Kissinger.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 119.
  3. Puhanʼs recommendation was contained in telegram 1267 from Budapest, July 16. The Department of State approved in telegram 132785 to Budapest, July 22. (Both in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 693, Country Files—Europe, Hungary, Vol. I.)
  4. The comments were forwarded to the Embassy in telegram 127281 to Budapest, July 14. (Ibid.)
  5. See footnote 1, Document 121. Puhan reported on his July 21 discussion with Peter of Cardinal Mindszenty in telegram 1310 from Budapest, July 21. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 12–1 HUNG)