Pope, in Hungary, meets with Orbán, laments anti-Semitism, concludes Eucharistic Congress
September 13, 2021
On September 12, Pope Francis began his four-day apostolic journey to Hungary and Slovakia, his 34th apostolic journey outside Italy during his eight-year pontificate.
The Pontiff traveled to Hungary (map), a nation of 9.8 million that is 61% Catholic, to celebrate the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. He spent only seven hours in Hungary before departing for neighboring Slovakia.
After arriving at Budapest International Airport and traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest (video), Pope Francis met with President János Áder and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The Holy See Press Office described the meeting as “cordial” and said that the parties discussed the “role of the Church in the country, the commitment to the protection of the environment, and the protection and promotion of the family.” The Pope gave the president a reproduction of a 19th-century Italian painting of the Pope delivering a blessing in St. Peter’s Square.
Orbán, known for his concern about Muslim immigration and his restrictive immigration policies, gave the Pope a copy of a 13th-century letter in which a Hungarian king asked for papal assistance in resisting a Mongol invasion.
“I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish,” Orbán posted on Facebook.
Pope Francis then met with the nation’s bishops, paying tribute to “the Church in Hungary, with its long history of unwavering faith, persecutions and the blood shed by its martyrs.”
Calling upon the bishops to preserve the past while looking to the future, the Pope encouraged the prelates to be “heralds of the Gospel,” “witnesses of fraternity,” and “heralds of hope.”
He also cautioned against the Latinization of Eastern Christians and added:
Your country is a place where men and women from other peoples have long lived together. Various ethnic groups, minorities, religious confessions and migrants have made yours a multicultural country. This is something new and, at least initially, can be troubling. Diversity always proves a bit frightening, for it challenges our securities and the status quo. Yet it also provides a precious opportunity to open our hearts to the Gospel message: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).
In the face of cultural, ethnic, political and religious diversity, we can either retreat into a rigid defense of our supposed identity, or become open to encountering others and cultivating together the dream of a fraternal society. I recall with pleasure that in 2017, here in this European capital, you assembled with representatives of the other Episcopal Conferences of Central and Eastern Europe to affirm once again that attachment to one’s own identity must never become a motive of hostility and contempt for others, but rather an aid to dialogue with different cultures. Dialogue without negotiating away one’s own attachment.
The Pontiff then met with other Christian and Jewish leaders (video) and called for “an education in fraternity, so that the outbursts of hatred that would destroy that fraternity will never prevail. I think of the threat of anti-Semitism still lurking in Europe and elsewhere. This is a fuse that must not be allowed to burn. And the best way to defuse it is to work together, positively, and to promote fraternity.”
Leaving the Museum of Fine Arts, Pope Francis went to Heroes’ Square in Budapest to celebrate the concluding Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress (video).
Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mk. 8:29), “calls for more than a quick answer straight out of the catechism; it requires a vital, personal response,” the Pope preached. “That response renews us as disciples. It takes place in three steps, steps that the disciples took and that we too can take. It involves first, proclaiming Jesus; second, discerning with Jesus and third, following Jesus.”
“This International Eucharistic Congress marks the end of one journey, but more importantly, the beginning of another,” Pope Francis said at the conclusion of his homily. “For walking behind Jesus means always looking ahead, welcoming the kairos of grace, and being challenged every day by the Lord’s question to each of us, his disciples: Who do you say that I am?”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Pope Francis delivered an Angelus address in which he emphasized:
This is what I wish for you: that the cross be your bridge between the past and the future. Religious sentiment has been the lifeblood of this nation, so attached to its roots. Yet the cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms towards everyone. The cross urges us to keep our roots firm, but without defensiveness; to draw from the wellsprings, opening ourselves to the thirst of the men and women of our time. My wish is that you be like that: grounded and open, rooted and considerate.
Following the Mass and Angelus address, the Pope returned to the airport. After a brief farewell ceremony (video), he departed for Slovakia.
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