BUDAPEST, Hungary — Salesian Brother Stephen Sandor, who was secretly hanged for "anti-state activities" under communist rule, has been beatified as a martyr.

"We celebrate a hero, deeply loyal to his Salesian vocation, and respect a great laborer who taught young people the love of work," Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest said at the Oct. 19 beatification Mass in St. Stephen's Square, in front of the cathedral.

"We are shocked he fell victim to a show trial, was tortured on false charges, sentenced to death and executed. His martyrdom evokes a sad era of purges when the judicial system sanctioned murder," the cardinal said of the brother, executed in 1953.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, a fellow-Salesian and prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Blessed Sandor's death, far from being an "improvised heroic gesture," had followed a life of "perpetual self-dedication."

He said religious persecution created "a gulf between human beings," whereas martyrs built "bridges of fraternity, forgiveness and acceptance through their sacrifice."

Born in Szolnok in 1914, Stephen Sandor joined the Salesians as a lay brother in 1936, taking final vows a decade later.

After teaching at a Salesian-run school, he served in Hungary's German-allied army in World War II and was briefly imprisoned by U.S. forces after the country's 1945 defeat.

Rejecting the chance to flee abroad, he secretly ministered to young people after the communist takeover, working under a false name at a chemicals factory, but disappeared after being arrested by the secret police in July 1952.

Documents later showed he was sentenced to death for treason at a closed trial and hanged June 8, 1953. His remains were never found.