Salesian brother executed by communist regime in 1953 beatified in Hungary

A brother from the Catholic order of the Salesians of Don Bosco was beatified Saturday, 60 years after he was executed by Hungary's communist regime.

Thousands of people filled St. Stephen's Square for Istvan Sandor's beatification ceremony. Sandor was hanged June 8, 1953, after being convicted in a show trial of treason and conspiring against the state. The Catholic church recognizes him as a martyr.

The indictment against Sandor and several others claimed that they wanted to bring down the communist regime and hoped for a U.S. victory in a new war.

Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, emphasized the strength of Sandor's vocation and his dedication to youth.

"We celebrate in him the hero who was true to his calling as a Salesian brother, even at the cost of his life," Erdo said in his sermon during the beatification mass outside St. Stephen's Basilica. "We respect in him the exceptional laborer who taught youth the love of work."

"We stand deeply moved before the victim of a show trial who was tortured, sentenced to death and executed based on false testimony."

Born in 1914 and a printer by profession, Sandor served in the Hungarian army during World War II, delaying his wish to join the Salesians. After the war, during which he was briefly an American prisoner, he became a mentor to young men under his care at the order's print shop.

Sandor continued his educational work even after most of Hungary's religious orders were dissolved in 1950. His superiors advised him to escape from Hungary, but he assumed a false identity and worked at a chemicals factory until he was found out and arrested in July 1952 by the AVH, the regime's secret police.

Beatification, the next-to-last step to canonization as a saint, bestows the title of "blessed."