RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 111, 11 June 1998
HUNGARY CONCERNED ABOUT ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN ROMANIA. The
Hungarian government's Office for Hungarians Abroad released
a report on 10 June that expresses concern about the
situation of ethnic Hungarians in Romania, Romanian state
radio reported the next day. The report says the
participation of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of
Romania (UDMR) in the ruling Romanian coalition provides an
"organizational framework" for respecting the rights of the
Hungarian minority there. But it adds that UDMR leaders are
"worried" by the wide-spread anti-Hungarian campaign in the
media, which, the report said, presents the UDMR as a
"revisionist, separatist...and destabilizing" organization.
The report also says the problem of setting up a separate
Hungarian-language university in Transylvania "is turning
into a key-issue" in relations between the ethnic Hungarian
minority and the Romanian majority. MS
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO EXAMINE WAYS TO SET UP HUNGARIAN
UNIVERSITY. Prime Minister Radu Vasile, Education Minister
Andrei Marga, and the leaders of the Hungarian Democratic
Federation of Romania (UDMR) have agreed to set up a
government commission to examine establishing an independent
Hungarian-language university, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported on 10 June. They also agreed to set up a Hungarian
language and literature department within the Babes-Bolyai
Cluj university. The new commission is to present its report
by the end of next month, while the government will draw up
by 25 June a document on how to modify the education law in
line with the government program and the protocols signed by
the coalition partners. This month, the executive is also to
draft legislation on the return of Church property
confiscated from the Hungarian community by the Communists.
VATICAN'S "OSTPOLITIK" ARCHITECT DIES
by Jan de Weydenthal
Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who was widely considered
an architect of the Holy See's policy of rapprochement with
the communist East, died earlier this week in Rome. He was
In a commemorative message to the College of
Cardinals, Pope John Paul II said that Casaroli was "a
passionate builder of peaceful relations between individuals
and nations and, by employing the utmost diplomatic
sensitivity, made brave and significant steps, especially in
improving the situation of the Church in Eastern Europe."
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, head of the Vatican's
Congregation for Eastern Churches, said that Casaroli
"managed to extract concrete, tangible results" in bilateral
dealings with individual communist regimes.
Casaroli came to prominence in the early 1960s, when
Pope John XXIII initiated a policy of gradually expanding
contacts with communist countries.
In 1964, Casaroli achieved a partial accord between
the Vatican and Hungary. Seven years later, this accord
paved the way for anti-communist Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty
to leave his "voluntary exile" in the U.S Embassy, where he
remained for 15 years following the Soviet suppression of
the 1956 popular revolt against the communist rule.
In the late 1960s, Casaroli was appointed head of the
Council for the Public Affairs of the Church--or the
Vatican's "foreign minister." In this capacity, Casaroli
successfully negotiated in 1970 the restoration of relations
with Yugoslavia. And in 1971, he visited Moscow to conduct
religious talks with Soviet officials, becoming the first
senior Vatican official to do so.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Casaroli frequently
traveled to Poland to talk with communist rulers there.
During those visits he became closely acquainted with the
future pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. Following his election
as Pontiff in 1978, John Paul confirmed Casaroli as the
Vatican's chief diplomat and a year later appointed him as
secretary of state, the Church's top official after the
In 1988 Casaroli visited Moscow again. He was
subsequently credited with successfully persuading the
Soviet officials to allow greater religious freedom for
Catholics in Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, and Russia itself.
A year later, in December 1989, the last Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul met in the Vatican.
Less than four months later the Vatican and Moscow exchanged
In December 1990 Casaroli resigned as the Vatican's
secretary of state and was replaced by his long-time
associate, Monsignor (now Cardinal) Angelo Sodano.
Casaroli was universally acknowledged as a consummate
diplomat and skillful negotiator who was absolutely loyal to
the Church. His role was essentially that of a facilitator--
expanding the Church's work in the ideologically hostile
communist environment, while negotiating a place for the
Church under those difficult conditions.
The election of Pope John Paul resulted in major
changes to that approach. This became particularly
noticeable during the papal visit to Poland in 1979, the
first to a communist country.
During his visit the pope presented an uncompromising
critique of the authoritarian government, focusing his
attention on moral issues and human rights rather than
diplomatic exchanges with the leaders and appealing directly
to the public.
The impact of the visit on Poland was dramatic,
undermining the authority of the established leadership and
encouraging popular self-organization. Just one year
earlier, the first popular social movement, Solidarity, rose
to prominence through a popular rebellion against the power
of the state. While that movement was subsequently crushed
by force, the spirit of public independence and social
autonomy from state control survived and spread to other
countries and societies.
The activist approach to "pastoral" issues, which
originated in the Polish visit, has characterized the pope's
subsequent visits to other communist and/or authoritarian
Casaroli, once so dedicated to gradualism and caution,
adjusted to the new situation. His appointment to the
powerful position of Secretary of State confirms that. And
Pope John Paul clearly appreciated the skill and devotion of
the veteran Vatican diplomat.
Following Casaroli's retirement, the pope was reported
to have said that it was "providential" to have worked with
him during the times of "historic" change in European and
Speaking in Moscow on 9 June, Anatolii Krasikov,
former head of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's press
office, said Cardinal Casaroli was a statesman of
international stature "who like few others left his own mark
on the time in which we live."
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
All rights reserved.