Born a pagan, he was baptized around the age of 10, together
with his father, chief of the Magyars, a group who migrated to the Danube area in the ninth century.
At 20 he married Gisela, sister to the future emperor, St. Henry. When he succeeded his father,
Stephen adopted a policy of Christianization of the country for both political and religious
reasons. He suppressed a series of revolts by pagan nobles and welded the Magyars into a strong
national group. He asked the pope to provide for the Church's organization in Hungary—and also
requested that the pope confer the title of king upon him. He was crowned on Christmas day
Stephen established a system of tithes to support
churches and pastors and to relieve the poor. Out of every 10 towns one had to build a church and
support a priest. He abolished pagan customs with a certain amount of violence, and commanded all to
marry, except clergy and religious. He was easily accessible to all, especially the poor.
In 1031 his son Emeric died, and the rest of his days were embittered by controversy over his successor. His nephews attempted to kill him. He died in 1038 and was canonized, along with his son, in 1083.
“These difficulties do not necessarily harm the life of faith. Indeed they can stimulate the mind to a more accurate and penetrating grasp of the faith. For recent studies and findings of science, history and philosophy raise new questions which influence life and demand new theological investigations” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 62).
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