The Pope’s final words to Bishop Áron Márton

Forty years ago, Bishop Áron Márton received an important telegram from the Vatican signed by the Holy Father, John Paul II, himself. The bishop had been waiting for this short letter, which the bishop nicknamed “the living Cathedral,” for a long time: The pope had finally accepted his resignation, and he was free from his duties on April 2, 1980. In this letter, which marked the final days of the legendary Hungarian bishop, the Holy Father called him Integerrimus Domini famulus (English: the Lord’s truest servant) (via Székelyhon).

Bishop Áron Márton in 1980. Image courtesy of Fortepan.hu

In the hardest days of our lives, we can always learn from our ancestors and heroes such as Bishop Márton. This man, who dedicated his life to God, lived through two world wars, was sentenced to life imprisonment, spent six years in jail in the cruelest Romanian prisons, had his bishop’s license revoked, and spent a decade under house arrest. And yet he remained the same open-hearted person throughout, a man who stood up and defended the weak while serving God.

Feeling that his strength was vanishing day by day as his illness took over his body, he asked for retirement six times after he reached the state pension age. The Holy Father, however, accepted only his last request in a telegram dated March 29, 1980, when Bishop Márton was 84 years old. “We have accepted your request to be free from your diocesan leadership duties because you referred to legitimate reasons such as your age and the illness you fell prey to, so we are informing you to comfort your conscience, but not without regret, because we are aware of the excellent care with which you led the Gyulafehérvár (Albae Iuliae) Catholic community in the honorable service of the Lord (integerrimus Domini famulus: the Lord’s truest servant) without sparing effort or suffering.”

“So, let the peace that you are going to enjoy rightly from now become the sign and pledge of the ultimate reward the Lord has prepared for you in heaven and that you are waiting for from Him. Our apostolic blessing, which we give you with great love, should be witness to our goodwill and appreciation.” Signed by: Pope John Paul II.

Free from his duties as diocese leader, Márton Áron died on September 29, 1980. Today, he is designated as a Servant of God, which is the name of a candidate for beatification and the first step toward becoming a saint.

Author: István Fekete