Pope Francis is in Hungary for a three-day visit. Francis has meetings with the Hungarian president and Prime Minister Viktor Orban. On Sunday, he will also lead a mass in the centre of Budapest.
Pope Francis’ long-awaited visit to Hungary has kicked off with a military parade. The Pope then met with Hungarian President Katalin Novák, followed by an audience with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Two years ago, Francis also made a short stopover in Hungary on his way to Slovakia. “That blitz visit only lasted a few hours and made it clear that the pope did not agree with Hungary’s migration policy,” says correspondent Stefan Bos. “Since the war, 2.5 million Ukrainians have crossed the border into Hungary. Apparently, that is enough improvement for the Pope to come by now.”
But a speech by Francis still hinted at criticism of Orbán’s migration policy. The Pope spoke of the need to renounce nationalistic interests and also quoted Saint Stephen, the first king and founder of Christian Hungary. It teaches that “strangers are received with kindness and are to be treated with respect.”
The Pope also called again for an end to the war in Ukraine. According to Orbán, the Pope and Hungary are on the same page about that war: both want a peace truce as soon as possible. Pope Francis has already said he wants to travel to Kyiv and Moscow in a trek to mediate.
Hungary has long been criticized, not least by Ukraine itself, for not doing enough to help Ukraine. Hungary refuses to supply arms to Ukraine and has repeatedly obstructed the EU in determining sanctions against Russia.
Orbán’s government preaches that Hungary must keep aloof from the war; otherwise, it is in danger of becoming directly involved in the fighting. Hungary says it is the greatest champion of peace and, unlike other countries that arm Ukraine, does not add fuel to the fire. Francis said that arms deliveries to Ukraine are acceptable because Ukraine has the right to defend itself against Russian aggression.
“The visit is alive in Hungary,” says Stefan Bos. “A third of Hungarians describe themselves as practising Catholics. On Sunday, the Pope will preach a mass in the heart of Budapest; hundreds of thousands of people are expected there. The opposition says that Orbán is using the Pope’s visit to divert attention from domestic problems, such as high inflation.”