Pope Francis has appointed Antal Molnár, director of the Institute of History at the ELKH Research Centre for the Humanities, as a member of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences (Pontificio Comitato di Scienze Storiche). Molnár is the first Hungarian member of the prestigious Vatican Board since its inception 67 years ago.

Antal Molnár has been researching the history of the Catholic Church for a quarter of a century, during which time he has published 18 books and more than 200 studies both in Hungary and internationally. Between 2011 and 2016, he organized a number of international scientific events as the director of the Hungarian Academy of Rome, including in cooperation with the Vatican.

Antal Molnár. Photo: Iván Jaksity

The Papal Committee for Historical Sciences was founded by Pope Pius XII in 1954 as the Vatican ‘national’ committee of the International Commission of Historical Sciences (Comité International des Sciences Historiques). The predecessor of the committee was a cardinal body that was set up by Pope Leo XIII in 1883 to promote historical research following the opening of the Vatican Archive.

Pius XII’s decision clearly signaled the radical renewal of Catholic historiography, as well as the beginning of an intensive dialogue with secular academic history. This committee is the most important institution of history in the Vatican, and its task is to promote and coordinate international church history research.

Joint conference of the Papal Committee for Historical Sciences and the Hungarian Academ of Rome, 2014.
In the middle, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, to his left P. Bernard Ardura, O. Praem, Chairman of the Commission, to the right, Antal Molnár, Director of the Hungarian Academy of Rome.

The board has a total of 32 ecclesiastical and secular members from all over the world, each and every one a renowned scholar. The committee has so far had only two members from Central and Eastern Europe (one Polish and one Slovak).

Pope Francis’s decision is not only a recognition of the work of Antal Molnár as a historian and scientific administrator, but also a significant gesture in recognition of the renewal of church history research in Hungary after 1990, and a significant opportunity to strengthen Hungarian presence in the Vatican.