As an exception within the European Union, Hungary has not severed its relations with the Kremlin. Its prime minister, Viktor Orban, refrains from criticizing the Russian president and refuses to send weapons to Kiev.
Pope Francis, who began a three-day visit to Hungary on Friday, called for Europe to “find its soul again” in the face of “a kind of childhood illness in dealing with war”.
On the streets of the capital, which witnessed strict security measures, residents welcomed the Argentine Pope (86 years), carrying the flags of Hungary and the Vatican. The Pope’s visit will be limited to Budapest due to his fragile health, which will be closely monitored a month after his admission to hospital.
In his first speech in this central European country bordering Ukraine, the pope said, “We seem to be witnessing a sad sunset of the dream of the peace choir, while the soloists of war reign.”
The Pontiff added, “The roar of nationalities has returned,” considering that “at the international level, it seems that politics has an effect in fueling souls instead of solving problems, forgetting the maturity that was reached after the horrors of war, and returning to a kind of childhood disease in dealing with war.”
He continued, “At this historical juncture, Europe is considered essential. Because thanks to its history, it represents the memory of humanity. Therefore, it is called upon to play the role that belongs to it: which is to unite the far apart, to welcome the peoples within it, and to leave no one as an enemy forever. That is why it is necessary to find Europe revived.
As an exception within the European Union, Hungary has not severed its relations with the Kremlin. Its prime minister, Viktor Orban, refrains from criticizing the Russian president and refuses to send weapons to Kiev. For his part, the Pope condemns the “aggression” against Ukraine, but the Pontiff is trying to maintain a dialogue with Moscow, although his attempt at mediation has not yielded results so far.
Minutes before that, the Pope had met with Orban for twenty minutes, in a closed meeting in which the prime minister stressed Christianity as the “messenger of peace.” For Orban, 59, who is committed to encouraging “Christian civilization,” the arrival of the Pope, two years after he stopped in Budapest for seven hours, constitutes a diplomatic success.
“I’m delighted, all eyes are on Hungary,” Laszlo Timisi, a retired journalist who came to see the pope, told AFP.
In this country where 9.7 million people live, including 39% Catholics, according to the latest figures in 2011, Orban and his supporters are keen to show common points with the head of the Catholic Church.
In his speech, the pope also praised the traditional Christian values that the Hungarian government upholds, particularly through its “effective birth and family policies”.
He denounced “ideological colonialism that eliminates differences, as in the case of the so-called culture of gender unity, or presents reduced concepts of freedom on the reality of life, and boasts, for example, that it has achieved an achievement in the meaningless “right to abortion,” which is always a tragic defeat.
“opening up to others”
Pope Francis also reminded Hungary of its duty in terms of receiving immigrants, stressing the need for “openness to others” in the face of “self-closure”.
He said that Christian values cannot be manifested through closure at a time when Hungary has erected fences on its borders and imposed restrictions on the submission of asylum applications at its embassies abroad, which cost it several convictions from the European Court of Justice.
The Pope is a staunch defender of immigrants and has consistently called for a fair distribution of migrants within the European Union. Aware of this sensitive diplomatic situation, the Pope was keen to present himself as a “friend and brother to all,” while the authorities emphasized the spiritual nature of this visit, stressing that it was not a “political event.”
Pope Francis is the second pontiff to visit Hungary, after the visits of the late Pope John Paul II in 1991 and 1996.