St. Stephen Province of Hungary of the Salesians of Don Bosco informed representatives of the press on 27th March that after long preparation and as a result of research, the relics of the beatified martyr, István Sándor have been found and identified. The Committee of National Remembrance was a contributing partner in the preparatory and identification process.
Greeting those present Provincial Béla Ábrahám said that although they regretted not having been able to present the relics at the beatification ceremony, they were pleased to announce that they had found martyr István Sándor, Salesian brother’s grave and identified his remains. The formal procedure of the authenticating process has started. The Provincial emphasized Márton Csány’s role in the research. Béla Ábrahám mentioned that interestingly, the Hungarian Salesian community had been approached for István Sándor’s relics from Brazil. According to Katalin Radnainé Fogarasi, general director of the National Heritage Institute the National Park of Mourning in the Rákoskeresztúr Cemetary contains plots 298, 300 and 301. These graves have been under protection since 2009. István Sándor, beatified martyr was buried here, and that is why a site of pilgrimage is intended to be established as a place to pay proper respect. The investigation and case files in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security were processed by curator Judit Bertáné Varga. She summarized her research in the book Kényszer ellenére -Szaléziak és a kommunizmus [Despite Forcing- Salesians and Communism] by ÚJ Ember Publishing. Based on the archived data, it was first assumed that István Sándor and his associates were buried in plot 301. The expert emphasized that István’s story contradicts the misbelief that all State Security staff was evil, as Albert Zana and Ferenc Farkas State Security officers who were executed along with him were victims of communism too.
As Éva Susa, anthropologist, chief legal advisor said, it is now certain thet István Sándor’s remains were found in the 37th grave of the second row of plot 301. The search for the grave was started by János Sándor, István Sándor’s brother in 1992. Since those passed away in prison and executed were buried to different places between 1945 and 1962, experts started to compile a database according to the documents available that could provide information on the graves. Today this database contains 3000 names. It was a known fact that on 8th June 1953 six people were executed -the data in the prison only provided the time and not the location of the execution. Besides, as it turned out, there was one person who was recorded to have passed away due to an illness in prison at the same time. This person was buried in plot 301, and that is how the idea came to search for István Sándor and his associates in the second row. One clue was that the execution was in the Fő Street prison, and another one was the burial order from the fifth row, bodies were buried towards the sides, ad that is how the location of the grave could be guessed. It turned out that there were instances of exhumation in 1964, originally they were looking for the remains of Social Democrat politicians the documents of the time provided information as well. The excavation started in November 2018 based on the information and the bones of six people were found in the grave.
Eszter Dudás, forensic anthropologist, genetics expert, associate of the Hungarian Institute for Forensic Sciences (NSZKK) talked about the DNA identification. The examination of the bones took place in the laboratory of NSZKK. As the remains were discovered in scattered position, it was impossible to tell which bone belonged to which individual. From the six skulls, those not of István’s had to be excluded. It was found that all of them were male, the oldest two were 39 years old, and one of them was István Sándor. As he was short, they examined the two shortest thighbones. As a reference to István Sándor, an envelope from 1950 was used. The comparative analysis of the Y chromosome and the DNA profile from the nucleus showed that they are the same from every possible aspect. As Eszter Dudás announced, it was verified by scientific methods and expertise that the envelope and the bone remains can be linked to the same person, István Sándor.
“Exactly six years ago, on 27 March Pope Francis announced the martyrdom of István Sándor” -said Pierluigi Cameroni SDB, member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Salesian postulator. Although on an ecclesiastical level this is not necessarily a special event, as relics can be found centuries later, it is highly significant when such research has a successful outcome. Pierluigi Cameroni SDB thanked all involved in the process.
The next step is to hand in an application with Péter Erdő, primate in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest to the Holy See to verify the relics’ authenticity and authorize to use them. After that the preserved relics are to be taken to pieces and sent all over the world, and the remaining will be placed to an altar. As he is a beatified martyr of the Church, we are now talking about relics and not remains; relics that require respect and reverence. The Salesian family present in 134 countries of the world this year pays great care to how one can becomes a saint, and this occasion’s contribution to the topic is significant.
Bála Ábrahám SDB, Provincial superior concluded the talk that the skull of beatified István Sándor is planned to be placed to the Clarisseum. There will be a relic in Szolnok, his birthplace, as well as one will be placed in the Mission Cross of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest.