Áron Márton, the former Roman Catholic Bishop of Gyulafehérvár who has been proposed for canonization, has been portrayed on a stained glass window created for the Saint Emery church in the so-called Ady district of Marosvásárhely. The artwork is to be inaugurated on November 5, on the day of Saint Emery.
The vicar of the Saint Emery church, Péter Sebestyén, has compiled for the Székelyhon.ro news portal a few facts regarding the life and work of the late bishop. The priest began his essay by pointing out the interesting occurrence of the number 40 in Bishop Áron’s biography. Servant of God, Bishop Áron Márton (1896 -1980), passed away exactly 40 years ago at the age of 84; he held the office of leader of the Transylvanian Roman Catholic Church also for 40 years. “The number 40 is a symbol of wholeness. The Old Testament mentions several periods of 40 days, or years. For instance, at the time of the Great Flood, Noah’s boat was lifted off by the waters after a rain that lasted for 40 days; the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years; when on the run, the prophet Elijah walked 40 days after he was given water and bread by an angel. The number 40 was important in the life of Jesus as well: he fasted for 40 days in the desert, he appeared to his disciples for the last time 40 days after his resurrection,” wrote the parish priest.
On the other hand, during his bishopric, Áron Márton consecrated only two churches: one in Csíkpálfalva in 1949 and the other one in the Ady district of Marosvásárhely in 1972, the church of Saint Emery. As vicar Sebestyén recounted, in 1968, communist authorities had their eyes on the parcel of the Franciscan church and cloister located in the center of Marosvásárhely. The proposition made to the bishop was that if he accepted the demolition of the Franciscan church, they would build the catholic community another one in the Ady district.
In a letter sent to the congregation members of the Marosvásárhely parish in February 1971, Áron Márton wrote: “We do not give up our churches, neither by pretense nor because of intimidation. We did not give up the Franciscan church of Marosvásárhely, and we did not sell it either. In full awareness of our responsibilities, after considering the facts, the sensible decision was to convene with the Authority and accept the deal to place the church in a district of Marosvásárhely where it was much needed by a growing number of believers. The new church will become a value of the Hungarian culture as well, the moment the members of the congregation take it into possession and start using it.”
According to the memories of Ferenc Léstyán, neither the priest of the inner city parish of Marosvásárhely, nor the Franciscan Order, nor Bishop Áron Márton, welcomed the intention of the authorities, but as they could not save the cloister’s building from being demolished, they thought it was best to agree with the deal offered for the new church. (In the end, only the Franciscan church’s tower was left standing, as it has a row of crypts beneath it – editor’s note.) The consecration mass of the Saint Emery church was held by the bishop himself on May 28, 1972.
As a homage to the great bishop, on the 40th anniversary of his death, the Catholic community of the Saint Emery church commissioned a stained glass window from István Egri, a visual artist from Kolozsvár. This artwork is unique in Transylvania, as it is the only human-sized portrait of Áron Márton done in stained glass, now decorating a church which he consecrated himself,” emphasized vicar Sebestyén in his piece. The Saint Emery church was initially a cinema during communism, and one of its windows initially was a “blind window.” “The stained-glass portrait painted with beautiful, radiant colors was placed in this orifice. The symbols depicted in the painting, such as the crosier, the mountain, the coat of arms and the angel figures, speak of the greatness of Áron Márton. May the Transylvanian people and our church be given more outstanding, straightforward, visionary figures like he was,” concluded the parish priest.
“Non recuso Laborem” (I do not refuse work/hardship/) was the motto Áron Márton chose when he was ordained bishop on February 12, 1939, in Kolozsvár, and he never failed to live by the true meanings of this phrase.
He was born into a religious Szekler family of farmers on August 28, 1896, in Csíkszentdomokos (Sândominic.) Just after finishing grammar school in 1915 in Gyulafehérvár, he was enrolled and sent to the front. In 1920 he applied for admission to the Roman Catholic seminary of Gyulafehérvár and was ordained priest on July 6, 1924. After serving in various functions, in 1932 he was sent to Kolozsvár and appointed parish priest. There he became a true spiritual leader to the university students and the entire Catholic community.
Bishop Márton was a true human rights activist, standing up against all the unjust and inhumane practices that trampled on the dignity of many. He used his function and every possibility to safeguard the ethnic Hungarian community from the various authoritarian measures meant to curtail its rights.
The Second Vienna Award, on August 30, 1940, reattached Northern Transylvania to Hungary, but the southern parts remained in Romania, and the bishop’s diocese was cut in half. Hungarians remaining in the Romanian parts were basically seen as enemies of the state, thus the bishop did not leave his congregation, but chose to stay in Gyulafehérvár.
In May 1944, he traveled to Kolozsvár (which then belonged to Hungary) and at a priestly ordination service held at Saint Michael’s church, he vehemently condemned anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews; he also wrote letters to several officials, asking them to put a stop to their actions against Jewish people.
After World War II, Romanian communists made every effort to destroy faith in God and to limit the rights of ethnic minorities, and Márton Áron spoke against these practices too. In 1949, the bishop was trapped and arrested by the Romanian Secret Service and spent two years remanded in various prisons. He was put on trial in 1951 and sentenced to life imprisonment, but due to various diplomatic interventions, he was released in 1955.
Nevertheless, from 1957 onward, communist authorities placed him under house arrest for 11 years in the episcopal palace. All of his discussions were recorded and spies kept an eye on all of his actions. In 1968, his presence at various diplomatic events became necessary, as he was the only Hungarian Roman Catholic bishop in Romania, so he managed to finally get out of house arrest. He traveled to Rome several times and met Pope Paul VI. At the beginning of the 1970s, he was diagnosed with cancer, which he bore with remarkable endurance. He passed away on September 29, 1980, and was buried in the crypt of the Gyulafehérvár cathedral. His process of canonization was initiated in 1992.
Title image: The artwork commissioned by the Saint Emery Church is the only human-sized portrait of Áron Márton painted on stained-glass