Budapest, Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m.: A powerful Archduke Albrecht march opened the Order Day in front of St. Stephen’s Baslika. Around 200 Knights and Dames of the Order as well as 44 postulants had gathered here on this 27th of April to line up, among them of course the Government of the Order with the Deputy Grandmaster HIRH Georg von Habsburg. For passers-by it was a curiosity, but for the Order of St. George it had become a fixed ritual, which took place every Order Day thanks to the square concert of the High and German Masters k.u.k. Viennese Regimental Band IR4.
This was followed by the Schönfeld, Alt Starhemberg, Radetzky and Deutschmeister Regimental March. After reporting to the Deputy Grandmaster, all members of the Order, including postulants, entered St Stephen’s Basilica, accompanied by a fanfare composed by conductor Helmut Zsaitsits.
The huge interior of Budapest’s largest – and perhaps most magnificent – church (built between 1851 and 1905) provided a particularly solemn setting for the festive service, which was further enhanced by the beautiful singing of the church choir conducted by László Fehér. The choir sang the Missa Choralis by Franz Liszt. H.E. György Snell, Auxiliary Bishop of St. Stephen’s, Budapest, served as the main celebrant. All three concelebrants were members of the Order’s Spiritual Council: H.E. Bishop Klaus Küng, former Bishop of St. Pölten, Prelate Ambróz Martin Štrbák, Abbot of Jasov Abbey, and Prelate German Erd OCist, Abbot of Stams.
In his sermon, Bishop Küng devoted himself entirely to the weakening Christianity of Europe. “In the hearts of many Europeans, the figure of Jesus seems to fade,” he lamented. “A way of thinking takes hold of them that constructs a world in which God does not appear, indeed, in a certain sense, is not even necessary.” The Bishop saw an important impulse in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter and John answered the scribes: “We cannot possibly be silent about what we have seen and heard.” To this Küng says: “This is how I imagine the attitude of a St. George Knight: When it comes to values that are of great importance for the development of the human being, it is necessary to stand up for them courageously. What are these values? – Ultimately, they are the Christian ones. They explain themselves from the Creator, from God.” And just as Jesus sent the disciples into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to all creatures, this is also the task of all Christians, and of the Knights of St. George in particular.
The festive Mass was followed, as always, by the investiture – this time deliberately in the historic lower church, because the sarcophagus of St. Stephen I of Hungary is also located there. For the subsequent joint lunch, the organisers had chosen a very noble venue, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. However, the venue at which the Gala Dinner concluded the Order Day was particularly exquisite: the Castle Palace, the largest and highest building in Budapest, which today houses, among other things, the Hungarian National Gallery.
“This Order Day is a special pleasure for me, as I live in Budapest,” declared HIRH Georg von Habsburg, visibly delighted. He also mentioned Budapest’s heavy losses due to the Second World War and communism, referring to the Castle Palace itself, which was largely destroyed at the end of the Second World War and then had its basic structure restored by the communists, but not without completely destroying the remaining interiors. After all: in the future, the “splendour of socialism” inside could soon be a thing of the past. The Hungarian government plans to restore the castle to its former beauty, as Georg von Habsburg reported to applause. For the rest of the day, especially the leisurely part, he had another practical tip: cultivate contacts and network!