By a Special Correspondent
The agreement with Hungary is not thought likely to lead to formal diplomatic relations between that country and the Holy See, but it is clear that more or less formal contacts are to be maintained.
Hungarian prelates in exile suspect that the agreement on the Communist side, is simply a lever to get rid of Cardinal Mindszenty from Hungarian soil.
They also point to the many .poblems not covered in the agreement. But Rome sources see the move as a constructive, if limited, advance.
The agreement was signed in Budapest in the presence of Mr. Bela Szulagyi, deputy minister for foreign affairs; Mr, Imre Miklos, vice president of the State Office for Religious Affairs; Mr. Joszef Szall, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Hungarian Republic in Rome; and Mgr. Luigi Bongianino, Counsellor of the Papal Nunciature to Italy.
The Vatican communique stated: "Officials of the Holy See and of the Government of the Hungarian People's Republic have had deep exchanges of views concerning the complex of the legal and factual questions regarding the relations between the Catholic Church and the Hungarian State.
"The Holy See and the Government of the Hungarian People's Republic have decided to establish in a document committing both sides the results to which the discussions have so far led.
"For this purpose an accord with the addition of a protocol was signed on September 15, 1964, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Budapest. These documents contain some practical conventions, assurances and commitments on some of the questions dealt with.
"At the same time, they outline the points of view, the requests, and the reservations expressed by both sides on various points. The two parties declared themselves willing to continue the exchange of views, with the aim of reaching more complete understanding."
Mr. Joszef Pratner, the Hungarian signatory, said in Budapest: "This agreement will further improve the relations between the State and the Roman Catholic Church. It refers to the appointment of bishops, the citizen's oath of allegiance to be taken by priests, and the position of the Papal Hungarian Institute in Rome."
Mr. Pratner added: "We welcome with satisfaction the fact that a more realistic appreciation of the developments in the Hungarian People's Republic has gained ground in the Vatican.
"The readiness shown by the Vatican to settle our relations is a result of the increased prestige of the Socialist countries. If this realistic policy is to be continutd, it will be possible to settle other questions still awaiting solution."
The main question still outstanding is whether Cardinal Mindszenty can leave the U.S. Legation without fear of arrest. Clearly, the only feasible settlement is that he should go to Rome, and presumably cease to be Primate of Hungary.
The most likely successor as Primate would be Mgr. Hamvas, whose promotion to the second post in the hierarchy this week suggests a concession to the Communists. Mgr. Hamvas has cooperated with the regime as far as he properly could, and has served as Hungarian delegate to the World Peace Council in Moscow.
Some of the other newly appointed prelates are also known to be less intransigent in their attitudes to the regime than Cardinal Mindszenty.
Other matters awaiting settlement include freedom of religious teaching. At present parents must present themselves in person at the appropriate State department to make a formal request if they want their children to receive religious instruction.
The present agreement makes no reference to the Church lands seized by the State or to the priests now under house arrest. At one time, certainly, Cardinal Mindszenty wanted such issues settled before he would consent to leave the country. He may, however, be more flexible now. Mgr. Casaroli is reported to have visited him in the Legation this week and the Cardinal has approved the agreement.
Meanwhile it remains to be seen whether this first tentative agreement will work out in practice.
Eleven Hungarian bishops leave for the Council today.